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Gillibrand's Political Star On Rise

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Four years ago, she was a freshman Congresswoman from a conservative upstate district. Today, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is becoming a national name, with talk of a White House run even in her future. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

What a difference from 2008 for Kirsten Gillibrand.

Largely unknown an election cycle ago, she soaked in applause from a New York audience Wednesday.

Then, before a national audience, she remembered her first race for Congress.

"A number of very senior politicians came up to me and said 'This should not be your first race, Kirsten,'" she said. "The guy you're running against is tough, is mean. It's gonna be a dirty campaign. I didn't care at all."

She won and caught a big break when David Paterson appointed her to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2009.

Since then, the 45-year old daughter of a well-connected political family is now a respected leader, though without the iconic status of those who occupied the seat before her.

"Kirsten Gillibrand has a very bright future," said Larry Levy of Hofstra University. "She's young enough. She's smart enough. She's experienced enough in both the private sector and the public. And she's certainly ambitious enough."

What that ambition is for can't be fully deciphered. Gillibrand is polled to win a full term in November, which she says she will serve out. But a planned visit this week to Iowa's delegation is flaming talk of a White House run.

She also got headlines for her work getting benefits for 9/11 workers and ending a ban on gay soldiers serving openly.

Potentially aiding a run for higher office, she's also fundraising nationally.

"We have Tea Party Republicans that we will take out in this election cycle," she said. "And with the help of the people in this room, we will be successful."

Some New York Democrats in that same room wanted Gillibrand's seat. And former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford flirted with a challenge in 2010. But Ford ended up not running. And Gillibrand hasn't faced a primary, nor a particularly strong Republican opponent.

So the chatter surrounds how Gillibrand shares the stage with Sen. Charles Schumer.

Levy said she's worked the imbalance to her advantage.

"Kirsten Gillibrand was able to make sure that Chuck Schumer knew that she wasn't a threat to him, that she wanted to be schooled by him," Levy said. "He was able to connect her to people in Washington she didn't already know."

She can parlay that to her advantage in the future, whatever that may be.

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