She's done stump speeches, and small intimate meetings to sway likely voters. Now Hillary Clinton is set to make her 2016 candidate debut on the Hill.
Six years after leaving her Senate seat, Clinton will arrive at the Capitol on Tuesday as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and she already has many party lawmakers on board. But there are some contenders to her left—particularly Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to pick a Democratic contender.
So the Democrats with whom Clinton meets want to make sure that she hits on the topics they care about. And like voters in those early primary states, they'd like to get a little face time with the candidate.
"I do think people like to be touched, I do think people like to be reached out to," said Rep. Joseph Crowley, the House Democratic Caucus vice chair. "I think it's a smart move on her part."
It'll be a day chock-full of meetings. One with the full House Democratic Caucus. Sessions with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Plus a meeting with Senate Democrats and another with the group Sanders helped found, the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Minority voters are an especially important part of Clinton's electoral strategy, both for the primaries and the general election. She's polling well above the other Democratic candidates with nonwhite, Democratic voters.
What's on the agenda for the minority-group meetings? A Clinton spokesperson wouldn't say much besides that domestic and foreign issues impacting the black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific communities would be discussed. While that might sound vague, members of the minority caucuses and their leaders said they hope to talk about everything from immigration to poverty to civil and voting-rights enforcement.
For the Congressional Black Caucus, this means reinforcing the belief that there should be an "unconditional war on poverty," caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield said.
"I believe progressively she will take very strong positions on these issues because she has demonstrated over the years that she cares about poverty, her husband has demonstrated it—it's been a family that hails from Arkansas, and there's a lot of poverty in Arkansas when he was governor of Arkansas—and I think she gets it," the North Carolina Democrat said. "And so we're going to challenge her and suggest that it be part of her agenda."
Job creation is a top priority for Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents parts of Baltimore, a city with an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent as of May—the third-highest in Maryland and more than June's national average of 5.3 percent. He'd also like to see the conversation touch on voting rights.
"There's been a very forceful attack on voting rights for African-American people, Hispanics, and others," the Democrat said. "I want to make sure that she continues—and she's talked about it—[to] have those rights up front and center because they go to the very essence of us being in control of our own destiny."
On immigration, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Congressional Hispanic Caucus member, would like to hear Clinton reaffirm her commitment to family reunification and to Obama's signature programs providing deportation relief to undocumented immigrants. (In May, Clinton told immigration activists what they had hoped to hear—that she will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship.)
"The urgency [is] so much higher on some of these issues than they were in the past—the fact that we look more and more to the administration as a source of relief rather than Congress passing laws," said the Arizona Democrat, who also is the cochair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Immigration also could crop up in her meeting with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Chairwoman Judy Chu said, particularly in addressing not only comprehensive reform but also the backlogs in visa procurement for this population. And Chu wants to have a discussion on Asian and Pacific Islanders' appointments to high-level federal posts. None are in Obama's cabinet (Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki left in 2014).
As for Sanders, no Democrats interviewed suggested that Clinton was likely to lose endorsements to him. But he could play a role in pushing her in a progressive direction.
"[Sanders], in my mind, is offering another platform to speak on issues and to collect information, sentiment, that will be very useful for Hillary in her formation of her own platform," said Rep. Mike Honda, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chair emeritus.
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