Democratic donors, seeing no alternative candidate, are urging Hillary Clinton to launch her 2016 bid sooner than planned.
While Clinton's response to the controversy that already surrounds her embryonic campaign was widely criticized as late, incomplete, and inadequate, top Democratic bundlers aren't turning away. If anything, the negative attention is making donors anxious for her to have a full team in place so that she can get into the race.
"For me, it reinforced that she needs to announce her candidacy ASAP," said Allan Berliant, an Ohio-based Democratic donor who bundled for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. "I am itching to get started, I want to get this show on the road "¦ pick any cliché you like."
According to Berliant, press coverage of Clinton's unauthorized server and her decision to delete emails she did not want the public to see has created a "real sense of urgency" for the campaign to begin in earnest.
"There's been zero [talk] about, 'Oh, maybe we should look at a different candidate,' or 'Oh gosh, this is horrible,'" he said of the network of donors he is in touch with. "Nothing like that. The only thing I'm getting [are] phone calls saying, 'Let's go, let's go.'"
Clinton's team is still reportedly planning for an early April launch date, putting the start of her official campaign just a few weeks away. But her news conference at the United Nations Tuesday, eight days after The New York Times first broke the news about her use of a private, unauthorized email account and server underscored for some Clinton supporters just how important it is to have a full rapid-response team in place to deal with bad headlines.
Along those lines, the Times reported Thursday that Clinton had hired former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Jesse Ferguson and is in talks with five other Democratic staffers to fill out her communications team.
"That's why it's really important that she should declare her candidacy if she's planning to run," said Kamil Hasan, a Bay Area-based donor who bundled for Clinton in 2008 and Obama in 2012. When she's a candidate, he said, she'll have a team in place to handle negative stories—and "she won't get distracted from major issues, which she should be talking about, about how to move the country forward," he added.
Berliant too said that an earlier campaign launch—which gets Clinton out on the trail and more frequently on the stump—will help her shake off some of the rust and get back into campaign mode.
"I think she needs to sharpen her skills on the podium," he said, reflecting on her presentation at the Tuesday press conference. "I thought she was flat "¦ practice makes perfect."
What the sustained bad headlines haven't done, these donors said, is dampen enthusiasm for Clinton within the Democratic moneyed class, even as they acknowledge that the email story isn't going away soon.
"Hillary supporters are very avid," said Alan Patricof, head of the New York-based venture-capital firm Greycroft, who has long ties to the Clintons. "Because of the style and personality she's conveyed to anyone who's ever been involved with her, I think those supporters are not wavering. Nothing has occurred that in any way would diminish that support."
He said Clinton did everything she needed to at the news conference and that she made an "extensive effort" to be transparent about the process behind disclosing her emails. He called the Republican Party's attempts to go after both Hillary and Bill Clinton "never-ending," noting that this controversy has added ammunition to their arsenal.
"There is obviously partisanship involved here, and there is a never-ending effort to undermine anyone whose name is Clinton," Patricof argued. "In the environment we're living in today, Benghazi and emails are never going to be dropped, they will continue even when five committees go through and analyze them. "¦ [Republicans] still like to create that cloud of doubt and suspicion."
Still, while Hasan said the controversy was "completely blown out of proportion," he acknowledged the press conference was "not enough" to put the issue to rest and that there remain "some questions" to be answered.
"I think this will linger for some time," he said, noting he hopes it's put to bed "in the next couple of months or so."
Despite the headlines and the desires of some donors, Patricof said he doubts Clinton will adjust her time line. "Her decision to run, whichever way she decides, will be made at a time that's appropriate, and I don't think this will accelerate it," he said. "This certainly won't slow it down."
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