The book tour—with massive crowds, a schedule of 20-plus appearances in three weeks, heaps of media scrutiny, and a Ready for Hillary bus plastered with her name on it—will give Clinton a fresh taste of life on the trail, and help her team hone her message and operations.
Even if Clinton's book tour is more commercial than political—she's steering clear of politically important states and making two stops in Canada—the experience will be informative, said Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's presidential campaign.
"She's going to have the ability to test the waters, without having to actually run," Trippi said. "She's going to get asked all the questions. It really is going to give her a good idea of what's coming."
When Clinton entered the race for Senate in 1999, she embarked on a "listening tour" across New York that helped inform her run. "The book tour will give her an opportunity to get to a lot of places that she hasn't been in a while," another former staffer said. "That energizes her, reconnects her, and helps hone her message."
Clinton's 10-city book tour supporting It Takes a Village in early 1996 helped set up her husband's reelection campaign, and in her 2003 memoir, Living History, she writes about cherishing the experience.
During a month when the Clinton White House was under intense scrutiny from investigators, the "only bright moments" came while promoting the book. "The crowds were huge and the audiences were warm and supportive, further evidence of the disconnect between Washington and the rest of the nation," she wrote in Living History.
But she also writes about presidential campaigns as long, grueling affairs undercut by "lies and manipulation." "Despite all the good advice we had received and all the time Bill and I had spent in the political arena, we were unprepared for the hardball politics and relentless scrutiny that comes with a run for the presidency," she wrote of the 1992 campaign.
The same could be said of her own campaign in 2008. But Chris Lehane, a veteran of the Bill Clinton White House, said the early timing of the book release, which allows her set her narrative before anyone can, and its well-orchestrated roll out, shows she's better prepared. "It certainly suggests that she has taken the lessons of 2008 and applied them," he said.
Book tours have long been proving grounds for presidential candidates. For Barack Obama, the throng of young people lining up to see him—and in some cases camping overnight on the streets—helped convince him to take the plunge.
For Colin Powell, a tour supporting his much anticipated 1995 book both pushed him to seriously consider a run and eventually helped him choose to abandon it. Bill Smullen, a longtime aide who accompanied Powell on the tour, said they were "overwhelmed" by the attention and encouragement the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs received. The outpouring made him seriously consider running, but after two weeks mulling it over, Powell decided he didn't have the "fire in the belly" to do what was necessary to run, Smullen said.