DES MOINES - More than three years before Election Day 2016, Sen. Claire McCaskill is already thinking ahead.
At a forum organized by the group Emily's List, in Iowa on Friday, the Missouri Democrat said she dreams of "that moment in 2017 when we can say 'Madam President' to Hillary Rodham Clinton."
McCaskill, who endorsed Barack Obama over Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, acknowledged that she faced blowback for her decision.
"It's not like I'm going for a good ol' boy," McCaskill recalls telling her detractors back then. But 2016 will be different. McCaskill has already thrown her support behind Ready For Hillary, the super PAC encouraging Clinton to run.
"We got to make history in 2008 by electing an amazing leader president of the United States and we get to turn around and do it in just a few years," McCaskill said, "It is our hope."
And while Clinton loomed largest over Friday's discussion about putting a woman in the White House, Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock, who participated in the group's "Madam President" panel, mentioned at least two other potential Democratic female contenders: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
"I know they love it when I throw their names out," Schriock said.
She spoke broadly of recruiting more women candidates into the "pipeline" not only in the coming presidential race but in 2014 House, Senate and governor contests. Noting that New Hampshire is the only state with a Democratic woman governor, Schriock reiterated her hope that Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis will run for governor of her state.
The panelists, including Iowa Congressional candidate Staci Appell and Democratic political consultant Jessica Vanden Berg, acknowledged the barriers that women, in particular, face when running for office.
"This is not sitting down to tea and crumpets," McCaskill said. "This is a tough business."
The Missouri lawmaker, who offered a flat "no" when asked on Friday whether she would consider running for president in 2016 if Clinton declined, urged women - and men - into action.
"I think we have to realize that in a day of Citizens United where there is huge money that can be written behind closed doors and flood airwaves with distorted information," she said, "the best antidote for that is a movement."
And without specifically backing Clinton at this early stage, it's that sort of movement that Emily's List is trying to spark. The group will hold similar gatherings in New Hampshire and Nevada in the coming months.
The event's moderator, Radio Iowa journalist O. Kay Henderson, asked the panelists whether Friday's forum could be considered Clinton's first 2016 campaign event in Iowa.
"Is she here?" Schriock joked.