www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/la-pn-obama-campaign-leaders-clinton-pac-20130709,0,4672238.story

baltimoresun.com

Obama campaign leaders sign up for pro-Clinton PAC

By Christi Parsons

July 10, 2013

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WASHINGTON--Two architects of President Obama’s grass-roots campaign organization are joining forces with the "super PAC" devoted to drafting Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for president, a significant practical and symbolic boost for her campaign-in-waiting.

Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart say their consulting firm will work with the Ready for Hillary PAC in the effort to round up early support for a 2016 candidacy.

The Obama for America alums have extensive contacts with community leaders and experience in building the field operations that helped Obama win the last two presidential elections, as well as defeat Clinton in the 2008 battle for the Democratic nomination.

The announcement also shows another evolution in the rapidly developing world of super PACs. In the 2012 Republican primaries, super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums of money, became a primary vehicle for campaign advertising, particularly the negative variety. Ready for Hillary, however, appears to be taking on a wider role, allowing backers of the former secretary of State to put a full campaign apparatus into place far in advance without the restrictions that a formal campaign committee would face.

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The symbolism of the latest move may be just as important as its operational advantages. Given their close association with the wider Obama network, the announcement by Bird and Stewart provides another example of how prominent Democrats have begun to coalesce behind the pro-Clinton effort even though the election remains more than three years away and the prospective candidate has yet to say whether she will run.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of Obama’s first supporters in his 2008 primary fight against Clinton, said in June that she was  backing the drive to recruit Clinton. Many other prominent Democrats have signed on as well.

The Clinton backers’ success at recruiting Obama supporters also makes plain that Vice President Joe Biden cannot count on fully inheriting the president’s campaign apparatus if he were to decide to run against Clinton for the nomination. A highly visible player in the administration, Biden is associated with initiatives and positions popular with the party base, but so far Clinton is widely favored in the discussion of the 2016 field.

Bird, who was Obama’s national field director, and Stewart, the battleground states director, recruited and ran a network of 2 million volunteers and registered almost that many new voters in the 2012 cycle. Their firm, 270 Strategies, which also includes other veterans of the Obama operation, will manage daily operations for Ready for Hillary’s field programs, its volunteer recruitment and training as well as its constituency engagement efforts.

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

Twitter: @cparsons