Pro-Hillary Clinton Efforts Whir to Life with Iowa Campaigning

What's being built is something well short of a campaign-in-waiting. Clinton herself would surely create her own operation from scratch if she decides to run.

But if the ventures deliver as promised, they would provide Clinton with the raw material with which to build a campaign. She would have access to polling, e-mail lists, a grassroots network, mid-level operatives, and high-dollar donors all lined up if and when she's as ready as her supporters are.

"If she decides to run, all these pieces are going to fall into place very, very quickly," said Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic strategist who isn't involved in the emerging pro-Clinton efforts. "Her position is almost as good as an incumbent president seeking reelection, and in some cases better."

The efforts hold substantial risks, of both overexposure and creating a sense of inevitability that could backfire. Some Clinton campaign veterans are wary of seeing the above-politics image she sought to build as secretary of state get tarnished this far out from a presidential year.

"It puts her in the line of fire," one former campaign aide said of efforts to build up a possible candidacy now. "It's going to feel like a very long presidential campaign."

But the buzz around Clinton has undeniably begun. Take the EMILY's List "Madam President" project – a long-term effort to elect a female president that's broader than support for one candidate in one election.

Schriock insists that her group is focused as much about getting a woman elected president in 2020 or 2024, if 2016 doesn't work out. The buzz around Clinton, though, is helping the group add names and raise money – things a Clinton candidacy would benefit from if she decides to run.

The group has made clear that Hillary Clinton will get the full benefit of its muscle in 2016, if Clinton says the word, to the extent allowable under campaign-finance law. That includes the results of a major research project, involving focus groups and polling, that would help Clinton navigate obstacles unique to a woman seeking to become president, Schriock said.

Friday's event in Iowa will also feature Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. That name has special resonance in pro-Clinton circles: McCaskill famously endorsed President Obama in 2008 but is now actively raising money for the Ready for Hillary PAC, the new outside group formed to channel grassroots enthusiasm for a Clinton run. (McCaskill also let it be known that when she endorsed the notion of Clinton '16 recently, she got a thank-you call from Clinton herself.)

Harold Ickes, a longtime Clinton hand who is advising and helping raise money for the PAC, said the early efforts are designed to show both outsiders and insiders that there's real enthusiasm for another Clinton candidacy. Among their target audience: Hillary Clinton herself.

"It will show that there is what we think is very broad and deep support for Hillary, and it will encourage others to come forward and register their support for Hillary," Ickes said. "More important, it is to show Hillary that there is broad and deep support. She knows how ephemeral polls can be, and how ephemeral public support can be."

"Hopefully she will conclude that she should run for president," added Ickes, who stressed that he has no direct knowledge of Clinton's 2016 plans.

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