December 31, 1999 12:00 PM

Did you think she’d crumble? Did you think she’d lay down and die? Oh, no, not she. She will survive. Out of the wreckage of le scandale Lewinsky, the 52-year-old First Lady burst forth this spring with a glamorous new haircut, a fashionable new wardrobe and the notion of running for the U.S. Senate. As she set off on her “listening tour” around New York State, Hillary Rodham Clinton also juggled the decorating demands of the family’s new $1.7 million home in the New York City suburb of Chappaqua, which will serve as her campaign headquarters. “In the middle of everything she’s on the cell phone calling cabinetmakers to install bookcases,” says New York Democratic Party head Judith Hope, who accompanied her for much of the tour. The new Hillary, maintains biographer Gail Sheehy, author of Hillary’s Choice, is a response to the old Bill. “She couldn’t count on him to change,” says Sheehy. “This time the change would have to be in her.” And while the state of the Clinton marriage remains an open question (“There has been enormous pain, enormous anger, but I have been with him half my life and he is a very, very good man,” Hillary told Talk magazine), one relationship that has only gotten stronger is the First Lady’s bond with daughter Chelsea, 19. Hillary’s pal Kathie Berlin, a public relations strategist, says that she doesn’t believe Mrs. Clinton would run for the Senate “if Chelsea didn’t approve or was uncomfortable with it.” The race promises to be bruising—New York City’s Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been leading in the polls, and Hillary recently angered some Jewish groups by kissing Suha Arafat after the PLO leader’s wife accused Israel of using poisonous gas against Palestinians. And yet, if the travails of the past year have shown anything, it’s that Hillary is at her best when the odds seem stacked against her. “She certainly wants to win,” says Berlin. But if she doesn’t, “she’ll find the next path.”

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