Hillary Clinton supporters have some of Iowa’s top Democratic grassroots organizers, and they’ve got a national super-PAC working to channel energy and enthusiasm for a draft presidential movement. Now all they need is a candidate.
However, Craig Smith, senior adviser to the Ready for Hillary group, said he doesn’t expect Clinton – a former first lady, U.S. senator and U.S. secretary to state – to formally decide on a 2016 White House bid until after this November’s mid-term election.
“I don’t know what she’s going to do and I don’t know when she’s going to do it,” said Smith, who was in Iowa Saturday to attend a kick-off “Ready for Hillary” event as part of a national effort to build early support should Clinton decide to make another presidential run.
“I think what we want is to take advantage of this enormous enthusiasm across the country for Hillary Clinton and give it an outlet and to be able to channel it,” Smith said.
Saturday’s event was a mix of savvy Democratic organizers who were on opposite sides in 2008 when Barack Obama bested John Edwards and Clinton in a hard-fought battle in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses. Now they are on the same team as they start to build a Clinton outreach effort that will fan out to 50 or 60 communities around the state in late February or early March.
“Our goal is to build the most exhaustive grassroots up organization in the history of the Iowa caucuses,” said Jerry Crawford, a Des Moines attorney who was a leader in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Iowa campaign. He noted that in 2008 Clinton “got more votes than any prior candidate for president in the history of the Iowa caucuses. It’s just that Barack Obama got more.”
Jackie Norris, Obama’s Iowa caucus campaign manager in 2008 who now is part of the Clinton movement, said Clinton was a formidable candidate in 2008 and she has enhanced her resume having served as secretary of state in the Obama administration.
“People who have watched her evolve in the roles that she’s been in and they’ve been impressed,” said Norris. She added that the key to a successful caucus effort in Iowa is identifying and energizing the foot soldiers who will turn out supporters in more than 2,000 precincts around Iowa.
Bonnie Campbell, a former Iowa attorney general and gubernatorial candidate who was a national co-chairwoman for Clinton 2008, said she believes that if Clinton backers build the groundwork in Iowa for a 2016 presidential bid that she will come.
“I think we put together a pretty good organization in 2008. Hillary did a fine job as a candidate. In my view, there was just a zeitgeist — a moment in history that was very difficult to overcome — and now that zeitgeist is on our side, so I feel very optimistic,” Campbell said.
“I hope that she makes that decision (to run) and I believe she will,” added Campbell. “I don’t view this as a coronation. This is an opportunity to get organized for whatever unfolds in the next few months.”
Organizers said Saturday’s event was intended to give Clinton backers an opportunity to learn what’s on the minds of Iowa Democratic activists and to gauge support in the event that Clinton should decide to run.
“The road to the White House runs through Iowa,” Smith said.