DES MOINES, Iowa -- Organizers hoping for a Hillary Clintonpresidential campaign in 2016 met here Saturday with Iowa Democrats andlabor leaders to initiate an early effort to get the former secretary ofstate on the ballot.
Ready for Hillary, a super PAC, is workingto build national grass-roots support for Clinton should she decide tomake a bid for the White House. The PAC is unaffiliated with a Clintoncampaign.
"Our goal is to try to harness the energy and enthusiasmthroughout the country for a potential candidacy for her and try tochannel that into something useful," said Craig Smith, the nationaldirector of Ready for Hillary.
"If we didn't channel the energyand put some attention to it in the hopes of a potential 2016 campaign,it would be political malpractice," Smith said.
Clinton has not yet made her 2016 intentions public.
Theevent Saturday, at Exile Brewing Company, was the organization's firstin Iowa. A two-day statewide organizing event for early March is in theworks; in 60 meetings, organizers hope to expand their email list,identify volunteers and raise small donations of $20.16. (Of 40,000national donors so far, half have given that amount, Smith said.)
The group has also begun organizing in New York, New Hampshire, Florida and Texas, among other states.
Leaders from both the Clinton and Obama 2008 campaigns co-chaired the event.
"It'sa very powerful symbol, in terms of being able to mesh both of thosegrass-roots organizations behind one candidate," said Jerry Crawford, aDes Moines lawyer and Democratic political operative. "It's a littleemotional for me."
On hand were Jackie Norris, who served asObama's Iowa campaign manager in 2008, and Tyler Olson, who was one of acouple of hundred state co-chairs for Obama; and Clinton '08 chairsTeresa Vilmain and former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell.
"We'rewith those people who were against her in 2008," Smith said. "The doorsare open. This is not about you were there, you were not there. It's aclean slate. Everybody gets in."
The day began with a breakfastmeeting with Iowa labor leaders, including representatives from AFSCME,AFL-CIO, the Iowa teachers' union and Progress Iowa.
"It's aninteresting organizing strategy in terms of getting out and making theask early," said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor,AFL-CIO. "I think they've learned from past experiences what they needto do."
But Sagar said his organization has other prioritiesfirst. "At this point in time we're going to be pretty focused on the2014 races," he said.
Smith said Iowa's upcoming Senate,congressional and gubernatorial races are opportunities for futureClinton volunteers to learn the ropes.
Labor leaders also offeredadvice on when and where Ready for Hillary should reach out to Iowans,such as county fairs. (In a New Hampshire meeting, the PAC was referredto a scrapbooking convention.)
Vilmain, who headed Clinton's Iowacampaign in 2008, said the commingling of locals and strategists at thisearly juncture can be fruitful in the long term.
"People are just honest," said Vilmain. "And then they're also just real."
Ata later gathering with about 30 top Democrats, leaders and attendeesmade a number of comparisons to Clinton's ill-fated 2008 campaign, withone Democrat saying that the campaign leadership was Washington-centricand ignored the grass-roots.
"Jackie (Norris) and her team were nimble, and our team was bureaucratic and sluggish," said Phyllis Peters of Ames.
Othersin the group brought up a need for a Clinton campaign to reach out tominorities, young people, people who live in rural areas and people whoaren't typically involved in politics.
Leaders say they expect a potential Clinton campaign to learn from its mistakes in 2008.
"Theperson-to-person conversation is so important," Olson said. "We triedit the other way in 2008, and we're still trying to elect HillaryClinton president."
Campbell, a Clinton '08 leader, said shedoesn't view Clinton's Iowa loss as a mistake per se. "Hillary workedvery hard, and I think we had a good organization, but theirs wasbetter," she said. "Some of that truly was the zeitgeist, and I'm proudof that now."
Obama's victory was "a moment in history," Campbell said. "And now, I think there's another moment in history."