Hillary Clinton readies presidential launch – Politico
With much anticipation but little drama, Hillary Clinton is expected to officially announce Sunday she is running for president, a launch that will begin with a message on social media and continue over the next week with campaign visits to Iowa and New Hampshire.
The announcement marks an end to the first, awkward phase of Clinton’s roll-out — a non-campaign that has frustrated Democrats who were anxious for her to turn the ignition switch on a campaign that the party is deeply invested in.
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“For months I’ve been getting calls from people who donate good money, asking when are we having an event, who are we writing a check to,” said Jay Jacobs, a prominent New York Democrat, and a longtime Clinton friend and fundraiser. “It’s completely topsy-turvy. The groundswell has been percolating for so long. This thing had to get going, I can’t imagine we could have waited much longer. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get with people chomping at the bit.”
For the past year, the former secretary of state has been treated like a candidate while lacking the structure around her to support one. That has led to some rusty moments as Clinton has sometimes painfully re-entered public life, outside of the State Department’s protective bubble.
The missteps began on her high-profile international book tour. When pressed during an interview with Diane Sawyer last June about why she was spending her time delivering highly paid speeches, Clinton delivered a tin-eared answer: She said that she and President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House.
Clinton — who has raked in more than $5 million on the paid speaking circuit since leaving Foggy Bottom and earned a reported $14 million advance on her latest book deal — admitted later that she regretted the comment and that it was “inartful.” But it fueled an emerging GOP storyline that she is out of touch with ordinary Americans.
She was the subject of bruising headlines again last month after the New York Times reported that Clinton had relied solely on a private email server during her tenure at the State Department. Supporters were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t hiding official documents. But they were less forgiving of her clunky response.
“It took eight days to provide a pretty straight forward simple answer,” said one Clinton insider, referring to her press conference at the United Nations, where she finally addressed the issue. “All of us thought, why didn’t you give that [answer] a day and a half after?”
Other Clinton backers considered the past year a useful proving ground. “She was bound to be rusty,” one insider said. “She’d been insulated and protected.”
Clinton’s time on the paid speaking circuit has enabled her to hone a campaign stump speech: in recent months, she has been highlighting her decades-long record fighting for women’s rights and supporting equal pay and legislation like paid sick leave. The speeches, in controlled environments filled with supporters, have provided Clinton with the opportunity for a soft launch before entering the fray.
In assembling a campaign team and vision — for an effort many close to Clinton estimate will raise and spend $1.5-to-$2 billion — Clinton has been careful to learn from the mistakes that marred her 2008 bid against Barack Obama. In a mission statement handed out to the team Saturday, campaign manager Robby Mook outlined how important it will be for the team to operate as a unified team, and as a diverse “family.”
The memo’s point was clear: Mook and senior staffers are determined to set a collaborative tone — a sharp contrast from the last campaign, when Clinton’s operation was crippled by infighting and discord among the top aides.
The memo also reminded staffers of one of the campaign’s animating themes: that the election “is not about Hillary Clinton and not about us — it’s about the everyday Americans who are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families.” That point was lost during the 2008 run, which carried the scent of coronation and when even Clinton’s first official announcement had a imperious and self-centered ring to it: “I’m in, and I’m in to win.”
Even as Clinton seeks a fresh start, she has many supporters who have been waiting to pick up the mantle where she left off. “There are 18 million people who have been ready since June 3, 2008,” said Jeffrey Campagna, who served on Clinton’s 2008 finance committee and LGBT steering committee. The official announcement “means everybody can press send — everybody has mailing lists, everybody has social networks.”
President Obama, Clinton’s one-time rival, offered support Saturday at a press conference in Panama. “She was a formidable candidate in 2008,” Obama said. “She was a great supporter of mine in the general election. She was an outstanding secretary of state. She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president. And I’m not on the ballot. So I’m not gonna step on her lines.”
He added: “The one thing I can say is she’s going to be able to handle herself very well in a conversation or debates around foreign policy. And her track record with respect to domestic policy is I think one that cares about working families. If she decides to run … she’s going to have some strong messages to deliver.”
Many of Clinton’s allies admit they would have preferred a shorter campaign, and would have liked to delay her official entry into the race for as long as possible, but they realize that has become impossible as the anticipation of her run got ahead of her.
“The race has already begun, the coverage has already begun, she has to be part of the debate right now,” said New York labor leader Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a labor group that endorsed Clinton in 2008. “It’s going to be long and intense.”
Clinton will enter a Democratic primary facing virtually no opposition, and is unlikely to face any real challenge until the general election. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – the most likely candidates to run in a primary – would face a steep uphill climb against Clinton. Two party stalwarts who might pose a bigger threat, Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have given no signals they are planning to enter the race.
Clinton’s official announcement also marks the official end for Ready for Hillary, the independent super PAC that for two years has been building grassroots support for Clinton’s run.
“People have wanted it to be real for two years,” said Tracy Sefl, a senior advisor to Ready for Hillary. “Ready for Hillary has been an amazing prelude.”
Sefl said she supported the roll-out of the official campaign. “There is something symbolic and also very real about going to the middle of the country to talk about the middle class and issues that people care about, which don’t have to do with Beltway/Acela corridor stuff,” she said. “She’s going to the middle of the country to talk about the middle class. It seems perfect.”