Florida favorite sons Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, beware.
Recent polling shows Hillary Clinton would defeat any of the potential Republican presidential candidates, including former Gov. Bush and U.S. Sen. Rubio.
The latest Quinnipiac University Poll shows Clinton has support among almost all voting blocs in Florida, regardless of age, income or race. Six in 10 Florida voters think she'd make a good president and seven in 10 believe she has strong leadership qualities.
"There are other candidates who are kind of jostling around," said Lee Rubin, who's organizing in South Florida on behalf of the Ready for Hillary political action committee. "She is kind of right in the sweet spot for getting the [Democratic] nomination and, more importantly, winning the general election."
The Quinnipiac Poll, released Jan. 31, shows Bush, Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan would all lose the state — and its swing state prize of 29 electoral votes — to Clinton.
Clinton — who will give a speech Feb. 26 to University of Miami students, faculty, staff and invited guests — hasn't said when she'll make a decision and announce it.
Many of her South Florida fans can't wait.
"I absolutely support Hillary. She has more than proven herself," said Nancy Drennen, 76, a Sunrise retiree. "She is an extremely capable person. She is cagey. She has what it takes to play this political game as well as — if not better than — a lot of men."
Linda Rosenthal, 71, who lives west of Boca Raton, said Clinton has the ideal combination of experience and knowledge after serving as first lady, a U.S. senator and secretary of state.
"I hope she's going to run," Rosenthal said. "She would be a terrific candidate and a marvelous president."
Richard Daigle, 43, a Boca Raton anesthesiologist, is passionate about Clinton. "I'm very excited about the prospect of her running."
He's read and listened to print and audio books by Clinton. He switched his party registration from Republican to Democratic to vote for her during her unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. And more recently, searching the Internet for ways support a possible 2016 candidacy, he stumbled on the Ready for Hillary political action committee.
He's made several small donations, which Federal Election Commission filings show add up to less than $500.
Ready for Hillary is hoping to harness interest among people like Daigle and build a network of supporters ready to be mobilized if Clinton decides to run.
Records show the group raised more than $4 million in 2013. A spokesman said Ready for Hillary had 33,000 donors in 2013. Of those, 2,649 were from Florida, with an average Sunshine State contribution of $51.
A major national player in Ready for Hillary is Craig T. Smith of Plantation, who was the White House political director under President Bill Clinton. He was traveling overseas last week and wasn't available to talk about the effort, a spokesman said.
In Florida and across the country, people who were involved with Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996 and Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful 2008 campaign are lining up to support her.
"Secretary Clinton presents the best opportunity for leadership for the country during what will be difficult times," said Mitchell Berger, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and prominent national Democratic fundraiser. "The country understands that we need is mature leadership, not a flash in the pan."
Berger was President Clinton's appointee as chairman of the Student Loan Marketing Association, known as Sallie Mae. He's given $1,000 to Ready for Hillary, records show.
Monte Friedkin, 73, of Weston, has donated $5,000 to Ready for Hillary.
He's a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and former chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party. He and his family put more than $250,000 into supporting Bill Clinton.
South Florida's top elected Democrats are already on board.
The Democratic members of Congress who represent most of Broward and Palm Beach counties — Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings — all supported Clinton in 2008 and hope she runs in 2016.
"She would make an outstanding president," Deutch said by email. Frankel said Clinton would have "huge support" in South Florida.
Skeptics think that the aura of inevitability around Clinton, similar to what existed during the 2008 primary campaign she lost to President Barack Obama, is dangerous.
Frankel said a fresh, underdog candidate can capture voters' imaginations, but she doesn't think that will happen again. And Hastings said it's helpful that many people involved in Obama's campaign have joined the efforts to begin organizing and raising money for Clinton.
Rosenthal, the Boca Raton Clinton supporter, said she's concerned that the focus on 2016 could hurt Democrats this year. As president of the 225-member Democratic Club of Boca Raton and Delray Beach, her priority is the 2014 race for governor along with local contests.
"I wish we would be focusing more on what's happening right now and not worrying so much about three years from now," she said.
Berger is not convinced Clinton will run. She would be 69 on election day 2016 and will have been on the public stage for four decades.
Friedkin, who chatted with Clinton at a late 2013 Miami fundraiser for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, came away unsure what she'll do. "I can't imagine her really wanting to run that badly. Frankly, I'll be surprised if she decides to run."
That would be fine with Max Jarrin, 62, a no party affiliation/independent voter who lives west of Boca Raton.
"They need to bury that possibility," Jarrin said. "That's the worst thing that could happen. I'm completely against it."
Janen Moyer-Pesso, 43, a Boca Raton investment adviser, who voted for Republican John McCain in 2008 and for Obama's re-election in 2012, said she'd love to see a female president but doesn't know if she'd vote for Clinton in 2016. "It's too early for me to decide."
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