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Senate Democratic Women Rally For Hillary Clinton, But No Sign Of Elizabeth Warren

By Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)

NEW YORK — During her eight years as a senator, Hillary Clinton was part of a small but growing club of Democratic women.

They gathered for monthly off-the-record dinners, shared a tiny ladies’ room just off the Senate floor and looked out for each other. Clinton helped out in her own way, raising their collective profile and hitting the campaign trail for many of them.

On Monday, 13 of them came together at a Capitol Hill hotel to return the favor for Clinton, each making her case for the Democratic presidential front-runner in her own way before a crowd of 1,000 that gave between $250 and $2,700 to the campaign to attend.

“It would take something extraordinary to get all 13 of us here at one time,” said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. “That something extraordinary is Hillary Clinton.”

Only one person could have “gotten so many of my colleagues together and that is Hillary Clinton,” echoed Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Before Clinton took the stage, the senators spoke in ascending order of seniority, from North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp to Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski. It was the first time the Clinton campaign has opened a fundraiser to all press, a decision that reflected its symbolic importance to a team that is not shying away from talking up the historic nature of her candidacy after a more reluctant handling of Clinton’s gender during her 2008 campaign.

“If you’re ready for me, I’m ready for you,” Clinton said after crossing the stage and sharing a hug or a handshake with each senator.

But one Senate Democratic woman was missing: Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, who has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate, though she did sign a 2013 letter urging Clinton to run.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Mikulski laughed off Warren’s absence, suggesting that “maybe she has a cold.”

Warren’s team was mum, but she said in September that she would likely endorse a candidate while the primaries are still ongoing. In the meantime, she’s using her voice — and fiercely loyal following — to pull the Democratic candidates, particularly Clinton, left on a range of economic issues including Wall Street regulation and student debt.

But as Warren’s colleagues spoke, she was out of sight and out of mind.

“We need to be there for her every day and in every way,” said Mikulski, the first Democratic woman to be elected to the Senate in her own right. “I will be working my earrings off to elect Hillary.”

While the women speaking Monday were unanimous in their support for Clinton, many other Democrats are undecided or backing other candidates. Women made up about 60 percent of Clinton’s donors during her first two quarters of fundraising. That means that roughly 240,000 women have given to her, but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign says that it has drawn more than 300,000 female donors, according to a report last week in the Washington Post.

For all the talk about substance, symbolism matters, too, argued Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin. “I want every young woman, every young girl, to be able to look at the president of the United States and see someone who looks a little bit like herself,” she said.

To hammer home that point, the Clinton campaign unveiled a video titled “44 boys is too many!” featuring girls reading their words of support for Clinton.

“If you would like help with your campaign, I’m available,” one girl offered. “And I would work for candy.”

©2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (C) raises her arms while joining 13 female senators for a “Women for Hillary” endorsement event and fundraiser in Washington November 30, 2015.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts 

 

Clinton And Sanders Enter New Phase In Battle For New Hampshire

By Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)

NEW YORK — By the numbers, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in more or less the same position in New Hampshire. They’ve been within a few points of each other in most recent polls, and both have more than 50 paid staffers and about 10 offices in the Granite State.

Behind those numbers, though, are two dramatically different campaigns.

Clinton’s team started early, with senior staff in place as she launched her candidacy in April and a staff of a few dozen paid organizers working on her behalf by the summer. Her first ad buy of $1 million came in August and her campaign has since spent millions of dollars more. She’s made a dozen trips to New Hampshire, including three in October.

Sanders’s campaign, meanwhile, didn’t have a state director on the job until August and had about 30 staffers by the end of that month. Its first ad buy (along with a complementary one in Iowa, totaling $2 million) was announced on Sunday, the day after Sanders wrapped up his ninth trip to the state.

Without the same robust structure until the past several weeks, the Sanders operation had been kept afloat by its volunteers. By the time Julia Barnes, the state director, started work, there were already hundreds of volunteers campaigning on behalf of Sanders, posting signs at their grocery stores, talking to neighbors at waste-transfer stations, selling home-embroidered hats featuring the candidate’s name and donating the profits to the campaign.

“One of the reasons why we’re seeing such success, even having a delay” in launching formal organization efforts well after Clinton, “is we did not — and this is a professional anomaly for me — have to work to manufacture enthusiasm,” Barnes said. “It was already there.”

Enthusiasm can only go so far (and, to be sure, there’s plenty for Clinton, too), argue veterans of President Barack Obama’s New Hampshire primary and general election campaigns, who just happen to be Clinton supporters this time around. Early and sophisticated organization gives her an edge, they say.

“There’s a key difference between the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign in that Clinton made an early investment in recruiting top volunteer organizers, top paid field organizers, political supporters like state senators who make a massive difference,” said Sean Downey, a Democratic consultant who was Obama 2012’s New Hampshire political director. “At the end of the day, those things count for something and it’s one of the many things that’s going to make a difference for Clinton at the end.”

Clinton’s effort on the ground in New Hampshire “looks and feels a lot like the Obama 2008 ground game,” said Jim Demers, who was a co-chair for that campaign. “Volunteers are in the offices on a regular basis, they’re targeting, canvassing. It really does rival that really aggressive campaign of 2008.”

As of Sunday, 5,500 people had volunteered for the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire, and she’d secured the endorsement of nine of 10 Democratic state senators, according to a memo from state director Mike Vlacich marking 100 days until the primary. “We started this campaign in April with a plan and stuck to it,” he wrote. “The result is a strong, durable organization built upon lasting relationships.”

The Sanders team is still working to build that kind of operation, Democrats in the state say. The campaign has been looking for a data director since July and several key staffers, including communications director Karthik Ganapathy and digital director Melissa Byrne, have joined in the past few weeks. The Clinton campaign’s data director started work July 1.

Despite Clinton’s early edge and Sanders’ surge through the summer months, the race in New Hampshire is now just where smart observers expected it to be: close, and likely to remain that way right up until the Feb. 9 primary.

The latest round of polls, conducted after the first Democratic debate and before Clinton’s Benghazi testimony, showed mixed results, with Sanders and Clinton each leading in some. In the Bloomberg Politics/St. Anselm New Hampshire Poll conducted Oct. 15-18, Sanders led Clinton by five points, 41 percent to 36 percent.

“It’s going to continue to be a competitive environment in New Hampshire. That’s the way New Hampshire is. Every race is competitive,” said Vlacich, who joined Clinton’s team in April after managing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s 2014 re-election campaign. “Voters make their decision on Feb. 9 — not tonight.”

Barnes also acknowledged the tightness of the race and raised the stakes. “I think New Hampshire is for us a must-win and it’s a must-win for them too, quite frankly,” she said. (Delegate math suggests that Sanders would likely need the momentum of a strong showing in New Hampshire to stay competitive in the nomination fight, while Clinton would be injured by a loss, but not fatally so.)

Sanders himself is just as definitive. “I think we have an excellent chance to win here in New Hampshire,” the Vermont senator told a few dozen supporters who gathered on Friday afternoon to mark the opening of a campaign office on Main Street in Nashua. “I think we can win in Iowa. Then if we win in Iowa and New Hampshire, it opens us for us a path toward victory.”

Clinton and Sanders both visited New Hampshire last week and showed off their relative strengths.

While in New Hampshire last Wednesday and Thursday, Clinton spoke to a crowd of about 400, the largest-ever for Politics and Eggs, St. Anselm College’s speakers series for presidential candidates, and traversed her way across the sparsely populated northern part of the state.

A Thursday afternoon town hall on rural issues drew 500 to a school cafeteria in Littleton, where the crowd booed a man who asked her how she’d be capable of “ending corruption” given Whitewater, Benghazi and scrutiny of her email server. “I wish you’d go back and read the history of the 1990s,” she told him. “I advise you to go back and read my 11 hours of testimony. I hope you enjoy it.”

Sanders arrived in the state midday Friday, making a last-minute stop at a senior citizens center in Manchester where a few dozen residents sat in the audience of a multipurpose room while a group of women kept up their card game. That night, he spoke to an audience of 450 at a town hall in Derry, delivering a 68-minute stump speech before taking half an hour of questions on democratic socialism, Syria and his opposition to the death penalty.

His visit during the last two days of October was his first to New Hampshire in five weeks, but was scheduled just as tightly as a standard Clinton campaign swing. It included three town halls, a meeting with the New Hampshire Union Leader’s editorial board, an office opening, trips to a senior center and a union hall, plus an unusually personal vignette of retail politicking, as he spent about 20 minutes trick-or-treating with his grandkids.

Both candidates were, in their own ways, making their case to undecided voters and trying to inspire those already committed to them to do more.

They also both have legitimate claims to being the favorite candidate in the state, though it’s usually the opposing campaign making the claims.

Sanders supporters cite Clinton’s campaigning in the state not just in 2008 but during her husband’s first campaign in 1992. Clinton supporters point out that Sanders campaigned in the state ahead of 2012, 2013 and 2014 elections.

“This state has a long history of looking very favorably at neighboring candidates,” said Demers. “People forget that Tsongas beat Bill Clinton here. Kerry, Dean, Dukakis all did very well.”

“I don’t think anyone can overestimate the impact of having a next door neighbor in the race,” he added.

“There’s a clearly a good connection and familiarity” for Sanders in New Hampshire, Barnes, his state director, acknowledged. “But I don’t think that that’s necessarily a unique advantage. I mean, Secretary Clinton has been campaigning here for decades…she’s spent a lot of time here.”

Both sides agree, though, that Clinton had a big head start in building her campaign infrastructure.

Entering the race as the clear front-runner and knowing she’d raise tens of millions of dollars in just her first quarter as a candidate, Clinton created a machine that would pay dividends down the stretch, hiring top talent including Vlacich and several others who worked on Shaheen’s 2014 campaign.

Clinton plans to formally file paperwork to get on the ballot on Nov. 9 and, in the days leading up to then, show off some of her big-name supporters. Among others, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will attend house parties on Clinton’s behalf and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will attend a Women for Hillary Event.

But Sanders is making gains, though he sometimes seems surprised by voters’ support for him.

While knocking on doors Saturday evening with his grandson and two granddaughters, a woman ran into her house to grab something and returned with the Bernie Bear, a stuffed critter with unruly white hair and a Bernie 2016 button on his suit jacket.

“This is the real thing,” Sanders said. “I’m so honored…. Oh my God, this is an experience of a lifetime. That is clearly something that is not going to happen every day.”

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the “Carroll County Democratic Committee’s Annual Grover Cleveland Dinner” at the Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett, New Hampshire October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Katherine Taylor 

Hillary Clinton ’16: The Anti-’08 Campaign

By Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)

This time is going to be different.

So say members of the skeleton team already working for Hillary Clinton, future staffers preparing to make the move from Washington, D.C.,to the expected campaign headquarters in New York, and some veterans of the 2008 campaign. It’s a reflection of what Clinton and her husband want as well as they prepare to launch her candidacy next month: a clear statement that they have learned from missteps and aren’t dwelling on what might have been.

Clinton’s strategy is still being formulated and her total message has yet to be unveiled, but her early staffing choices are seen as a signal that she is aware of the infighting and drama that plagued her 2008 campaign and is trying to change that.

“If she gets in the race, of course this time will be different. And her team will reflect that,” said Nick Merrill, who is currently Clinton’s only on-the-record spokesman.

The expected campaign manager, Robby Mook,values organizing as much as he does data, strategy and messaging. He and campaign chairman John Podesta will be tasked with juggling competing interests and personalities within the campaign and outside of it, from the Clintons on down. Communications head Jennifer Palmieri, who left the Obama administration last week, is seen by reporters and operatives alike as someone who can disagree with those who cover the campaign but will do so respectfully and professionally.

During her last campaign, Clinton’s team was rife with backstabbing, credit claiming, and finger-pointing. Decisions were often put off indefinitely and then made under duress. Her communications staff could be abusive and uncooperative with reporters. For much of the campaign, she was cloistered from voters, reluctant to even hint at the historic nature of her candidacy. And Bill Clinton, at times one of his wife’s greatest assets, was also often a huge liability, letting his anger toward Barack Obama show throughout the early months of 2008.

Clinton is expected to announce her next steps in early April. She is in a stage where she doesn’t have to report spending on staff or travel, though she will need to do so retroactively once her campaign launches.

While people joining the campaign are confident about its potential, longtime Clinton supporter Donna Brazile cautioned that staffing itself is just one piece of the dynamic. “If it was just personnel, it would be easy,” she said. “But it’s about how you deploy all of the available resources at your disposal, how you manage it all, especially in the age of the SuperPAC.”

One strategist said that the primary reason people are attracted to working for the Clinton campaign is Clinton herself, but that the team she’s building is also a big draw.

Some joining the team, like pollster and strategist Joel Benenson and media adviser Jim Margolis, have deep roots in the two Obama presidential campaigns. Others, like Mandy Grunwald, have more than two decades of history with the Clintons. But plenty of other staffers have a mix of experiences. Marlon Marshall worked in the Obama White House and was deputy national field director in 2012. In 2008, he was Clinton’s state field director in Nevada, Ohio and Indiana.

Mook has a loyal following and was described by two people who have worked with him as the only candidate for the campaign manager job who would have joined the team even if he hadn’t been given that role.

Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama’s former communications director, will be a deputy to Palmieri, while Attorney General Eric Holder’s top press aide, Brian Fallon, will leave his job at the end of the month to join as a press secretary. Other early hires for press jobs include the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Jesse Ferguson, the Democratic National Committee’s Ian Sams and Jesse Lehrich of American Bridge, which has been conducting opposition research on the potential Republican candidates.

Merrill will continue to serve as a spokesman.”You need an infrastructure and operation in place and one guy can’t do it all,” said Jim Manley, the former top communications adviser to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, referring to Merrill. “They seem to be building that, but we’ll have to wait to see how it runs.”

Lehrich’s hiring is a sign of how much the Clinton/Obama dynamic has changed since 2008. His uncle is David Axelrod, Obama’s political messaging guru.

Just as important to defining the team as who’s on it is who isn’t. Clinton’s longtime communications adviser, Philippe Reines — who spent the 2008 cycle as her Senate press secretary — will not be on the campaign staff and has told people close to Clinton that he has made a deliberate decision to back away from day-to-day involvement. Known for his often-aggressive style, his less-central role is viewed as another signal of the Clinton campaign’s media relations.

What’s not clear is exactly what role those new mid-level staffers will fill.One future staffer who didn’t want to speak on the record before the campaign launches and his hiring is announced said he felt comfortable leaving his current job because of his trust in the senior members of the team. Mook in particular is cited as someone who is unlikely to allow intramural disagreements between former Obama and Clinton staffers to disrupt the campaign.

The Democratic strategist said that the current team’s organizational chart is a huge change from 2008, when seemingly everyone on the campaign was a senior adviser.

“It’s a different season, it’s a different set of challenges,” Brazile said. “So of course you’re driving with a different set of tires.”

Photo: Canada2020 via Flickr

Under Pressure, Hillary Clinton Asks State Department To Release Her Emails

By Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Hillary Clinton sought to do some damage control late Wednesday as she revealed that she’s asked the State Department to release the emails she exchanged during her four years leading the agency.

“I want the public to see my email,” she said on Twitter. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said the department”will review for public release the emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the Department, using a normal process that guides such releases.”

The department, she added, “will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete.” Harf offered no estimate of the timeframe.

During her time as secretary of state, Clinton exclusively used a personal email address hosted on a private server, conducting official business and personal conversations through the account.

In the two days since the New York Times first reported on her reliance on the account, which at least for a time was hdr22@clintonemail.com, Clinton has faced pressure to explain her reasoning for using the account instead of one hosted by the State Department, which would have automatically been archived in accordance with public records laws. Instead, Clinton’s aides provided 50,000 pages of emails to the State Department only after getting a request for the documents as part of a broader archival project.

The tweet — posted at 11:35 p.m. EST — was Clinton’s first public comment since the Times story was posted on Monday. While it showed a willingness to share many of her communications from her years in the Obama administration, it left unanswered many of the questions that have been raised this week. Her aides have said that all e-mails pertaining to official business were turned over to the State Department, but it’s not clear how they know that for certain. And Clinton still has not explained why she chose the personal account in the first place.

Her spokesman, Nick Merrill, declined to elaborate on the tweet and referred questions about the release process to the State Department.

Photo: Canada2020 via Flickr

At Emily’s List Gala, Hillary Clinton Steers Clear Of Email Controversy

By Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — What email controversy?

Before a roaring crowd of supporters gathered on Tuesday night in Washington to mark the 30th anniversary of Emily’s List, Hillary Clinton steered clear of any mention of the revelation that she used a private email account during her tenure as secretary of state, and focused her message instead on the economy while teasing her potential campaign for the White House.

“I suppose it’s only fair to say, don’t you someday want to see a woman president?” the former secretary of state told a crowd of more than 1,600 gathered to celebrate the group that has helped pro-choice Democratic women reach every echelon of elected office short of the presidency.

“Elections should be contests of ideas,” Clinton said. “Women who have entered the arena well-equipped … can make their case, can be elected.” In another veiled reference to her plans, which are likely to include launching a campaign in April, she said: “Along life’s way you get a chance to make millions of decisions. Some of them are big, like do you run for office.”

While Clinton wasn’t shy about hinting at what might be next, she didn’t talk about a recent flurry of unflattering stories swirling around her, including the Clinton Foundation’s history of accepting contributions from foreign governments, and her use of a personal email account while at the State Department.

Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock did, however, allude to the scrutiny Clinton has received in her introduction of the Democratic frontrunner. “Nobody in American political history has faced more unfair attacks, more desperate opposition than Hillary,” she said. But Clinton has “shown us how to shake off the setbacks, ignore the haters and keep focused on moving our country forward.” In an interview earlier in the night, Schriock said her focus Tuesday night was to “celebrate” the former secretary of State, who’s been “such a champion for women and children around the country.”

Clinton used her speech — just her second since late January — to sharpen her discussion of the domestic issues that will be at the core of her candidacy.

Some people “roll their eyes when I say that women’s issues are American issues. But they just have to get used to it,” she said.

“We’re not just standing up for women, but for all people,” she later added. “Today there are too many policies and pressures that make it harder for parents, men and women alike, to work while also raising a family.”

Clinton sounded many of the similar themes she has employed during recent stump speeches, but added some new lines of support and attack. “Elizabeth Warren can work to hold Wall Street accountable,” she said as she ran through a list of women who have run for office because of support from Emily’s List.

In a veiled shot at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and a sign of support for the labor movement, she said that “the American middle class was built in part by the right for people to organize and bargain on behalf of themselves.”

Others who preceded Clinton on stage also hinted at her plans.

“In 2016 we will elect that Democratic woman president and you know who I’m talking about,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who on Monday announced her plans to retire and drew an extended standing ovation from the crowd.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said there is the “possibility that for the first time in our nation, we might have a woman as president of these United States.”

Aware of what’s ahead for her to get to that point, Clinton said, simply: “We have … a lot to do in the next 20 months.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons