Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent much of the last month behind closed doors, putting the final touches on a presidential campaign-in-waiting.This is a fascinating article. It illustrates the supreme political professionalism of the Clinton family, and demonstrates organizationally that Clinton's Senate career has been the key stepping stone for White House ambitions that were likely brewing way back in the early-1990s.
Her hectic schedule has been crammed with private lunches and phone conversations with elected officials and political operatives. She has sounded out Democratic Party officials from New York to Des Moines about her chances and hired a cadre of new campaign aides.
And she has made time for television interviews, re-releases of her books and delicately timed appearances with her high-wattage husband.
It is all part of a political organization that has been under construction since the turbulent Clinton White House years and was bolstered by two successful Senate campaigns. Awaiting only her go-ahead — with a decision expected in January — the machine that Hillary built has the heft and advance billing of an election-year juggernaut.
It is a high-stakes fusion of her political world and her husband's, two camps with markedly different styles and, at times, competing agendas and egos. The test, should she decide to run, will be getting the two cultures to work together."
Her organization is much different than the old Clinton organization," said New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who worked on President Clinton's 1996 reelection effort. "She has a whole loyal national network of her own. They're all hard, tough people. The trick she'll have is to find a way to blend them in and keep them together."
Bill Clinton ran a loose and leaky ship during his two White House terms, and many in his old brain trust who are expected to return to the fold for a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign now have careers to tend and outside interests to promote.
By contrast, "Hillaryland" is a disciplined structure of her own design, a tight-knit realm populated by discreet, fiercely devoted aides who have been with the former first lady since her East Wing days, along with newer additions who serve on her Senate staff. Some wonder if her circle is too buffered.
"The danger she faces," one longtime Clinton intimate said, "is the problem of insularity. You saw that at times in the Clinton White House. She tends to filter a lot through her most trusted people. That's an advantage when things are going well. But you can get closed off when things are falling apart."
Her machine would nonetheless be tested early. Recent polls in New Hampshire and Iowa show Clinton would have stiff competition from two potential Democratic rivals, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
It will be interesting to see the timing and manner of Clinton's official presidential campaign announcement. For most candidates, the announcement is a way to generate media attention and build upward momentum in fundaising and public opinion. Hillary's really way beyond those normal type of campaign details, although this article and others have suggested that she's not doing as well in the money race as had been previously expected. No matter, Hillary's the candidate to beat in the Democratic primaries, despite the considerable attention garned by Barack Obama and John Edwards. For my earlier post on Clinton's frontrunner status, click here. See also this post on why Hillary's running well behind John McCain in a likely 2008 presidential matchup.