Friday, Mar. 5, 2004 10:52 AM EST Hillary Warns Kerry: Hands Off McAuliffe Uber Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton is warning all-but-certain presidential nominee John Kerry to back off if he's thinking about replacing party chairman Terry McAuliffe before the election. Asked about rumblings that the Kerry camp wanted to toss McAuliffe over the side, Clinton told the New York Times on Friday, "Terry has helped the Democratic Party move into the 21st century to compete against the incredible interlocking institutional powers of the other side." "A lot of plans have been laid, a lot of infrastructure put in place, and I want to see us follow through," she insisted. The disagreement over McAuliffe's future could be just the tip of the iceberg of a growing rift between the Clintons, who, through McAuliffe, still control the party's machinery - and Sen. Kerry's political team, which now sees itself in the driver's seat. Sen. Clinton, for instance, reminded the Times that her husband did not replace the party chairman when he became the nominee in 1992 - a none too subtle hint that she expects Kerry to follow suit. Still, the Kerry camp is reportedly bristling over McAuliffe's antics, such as his decision to publicly allege that President Bush went AWOL from the National Guard. That stunt put the spotlight on parts of Kerry's past that he preferred not to discuss - such as his decision to team up Jane Fonda for anti-war protests in the 1970s. Another sign of the growing rift between the Kerry and Clinton teams came late Tuesday, when Sen. Clinton offered an unenthusiastic endorsement to Kerry as the party's inevitable nominee, and did so on Japanese TV - a venue where few Americans were likely to notice. Strategists for the Massachusetts Democrat are said to be considering different ways to curb McAuliffe's independence - a move that would certainly limit the influence wielded by Sen. Clinton and her husband in upcoming campaign decisions. Still, Kerry strategists, aware that alienating the Clintons could cost their candidate in more ways than one, have to be careful not to ignite an internal civil war. Even without McAuliffe, for example, Sen. Clinton controls the Democratic Party's presidential media fund through her right hand man Harold Ickes, who has the backing of Bush-bashing billionaire George Soros. And other Democratic groups that will play critical roles in the 2004 election include Americans Coming Together, founded by Hillary ally Ellen Malcom, and the Center for American Progress, run by former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. link Now why would Hillary not want McAuliffe's position in jeporday? Damn Kerry has to campaign against Bush and the Clintons. Hillary may be the V.P. yet.