By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES—Hillary Rodham Clinton will not announce for months whether she will run for president, but as she arrived in California for events this week the machinery of a campaign was cranking into gear around her.
The Ready for Hillary “super PAC,” created to encourage her candidacy, will launch a web site this week that could serve as the framework for an eventual campaign to organize supporters across the 50 states.
The leaders of another super PAC, Priorities USA Action, have been meeting on the West Coast with a select group of donors, seeking six- and seven-figure pledges (and in some cases checks) to fund expensive ads on Clinton’s behalf.
The pro-Clinton research operation of a third group, American Bridge 21st Century, is up and running in rapid response mode — casting Clinton critics such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, as obsessed with her record from the ’90s.
After initial tensions last fall, the leaders of the dominant Democratic super PACs have put considerable effort into creating a united front on behalf of Clinton, a circumstance that has enhanced her standing as the far-and-away party front-runner in 2016.
Their decision to coalesce around an as-yet-unannounced candidate contrasts with the tumult surrounding the vigorously competitive Republican field, whose contenders will jockey for position later this week in Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. While there are risks to unifying behind Clinton so early, Democratic super PACs see it as essential to build on cooperation they fostered after being pummeled by GOP-allied groups in the past.
“There was agreement,” said David Brock, chairman of American Bridge and a newly appointed Priorities USA board member, “that there was a structure that should be put in place that was closely coordinated; that played to each entity’s strength; that eliminated duplication; and that began to operate as early in the cycle as possible, so that we could begin to set our own story lines out before they got set by others.
“All of those lessons are going to apply to the 2016 effort, and we already see that in action,” he said. The groups can operate together but, as legally independent entities, cannot coordinate strategy with an eventual Clinton campaign, should she decide to run.
Clinton, who spoke Tuesday at a private fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach and will join University of California, Los Angeles political science professor Lynn Vavreck for a campus panel Wednesday, has offered sphinx-like answers about her political plans and no argument for her potential candidacy. Last week, she wryly told a University of Miami audience that she did not intend to elaborate on the “TBD” in her Twitter bio, because she had run out of allotted characters.
Nonetheless, the groups encouraging the former secretary of State to run say they have enough to work with for now given Clinton’s status as a revered and inspirational figure among base Democratic voters.
As she makes up her mind, they are fashioning the building blocks for a successful campaign: refining the million-plus voter list that would be sold or rented to her campaign, countering hostile Republican voices, and laying the groundwork to engage the core Democratic constituencies that favored Barack Obama over her in 2008.