2016

06.21.14

Hillary Clinton’s Secret Iowa Campaign Cadre

The possible candidate’s most ardent supporters already have been undergoing training in the first-in-the-nation primary state. What Ready for Hillary is telling its troops.

Hours before Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley touched down in Des Moines to become the first credible Democratic contender to visit Iowa, Ready for Hillary held a closed-door event for female activists in the Hawkeye State.

The pro-Hillary super PAC, which is serving as a shadow Clinton campaign with the advice of a number of prominent, high-priced consultants and already collecting significant quantities of voter data, is holding a “Ready to Lead” training as part of its Woman’s Office outreach program, which spokesman Seth Bringman says is operating across the country but “with an emphasis on Iowa and early states.” The training, which took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a weekday, was meant to prepare the most zealous of Hillary supporters to advocate for the former first lady in the event of a presidential bid.

In fact, one attendee went so far as to describe the event as “super awesome.” She described a group of about 20-25 hailing from all over central Iowa. They varied in ages and political experience. About half were Hillary Clinton supporters in 2008 and half supported Barack Obama. The idea was to prepare them to take a message about why they supported Hillary Clinton and “take that message into the real world.” All the attendees were assigned to prepare their own personal plans for how to engage friends, coworkers and family members in the Ready for Hillary effort. The idea: By setting specific goals, they could all be held accountable for whether they were successful in their efforts to advocate for the potential candidacy of the former Secretary of State.

This sub rosa gathering marks another step in the organizing of a potential presidential campaign for Clinton. While the former first lady has yet to set foot in Iowa this cycle, she is already in quasi campaign mode promoting her new book, Hard Choices, and undergoing significant scrutiny for her work defending an alleged rapist as a lawyer in Arkansas in the 1970s.

In contrast to these organizing efforts, O’Malley made his first appearance in Iowa as a guest at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner on Friday night—he’ll be the keynote speaker at the state Democratic convention on Saturday. Prior to his appearance, the only other potential 2016 candidate to visit was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-professed Democratic Socialist, who is not even a registered member of the Democratic Party.  Observers don’t consider Sanders to be a serious contender for the nomination and instead, a gadfly running to push the Democratic agenda to the left.

Clinton though did appear via video at the state party dinner, which was being held in tribute to retiring Sen. Tom Harkin. She asked for Harkin’s advice in an important life step she was taking where the wisdom of the Iowa Democratic stalwart would be invaluable… becoming a grandparent.

Yet while Clinton continues to remain coy about her political ambitions, it’s clear the groundwork is already being laid for her candidacy as she uses her stature to freeze the rest of the field and scare off potential challengers from even taking the most basic steps toward running.