TIME 2016 Election

Hillary’s 2016 Campaign is Ready, Hypothetically Speaking

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to a crowd during a campaign stop to promote Democrats in re-election bids in the east Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo. on Oct. 21, 2014. David Zalubowski—AP

Would-be surrogates tried to make the case for Hillary without admitting she's running

Hillary Clinton is almost definitely, but not certainly, going to run for president and if she does, she’ll most likely be the strongest candidate, but she could totally still lose, so Democrats shouldn’t get cocky.

That was the awkward message from would-be Clinton surrogates who were among the several hundred politicos, fundraisers and activists who showed up for a “Ready For Hillary” convention in New York Friday.

At some moments, they seemed to fall over themselves insisting that the former Secretary of State’s ascendancy should not be considered “inevitable,” while at other moments they discussed in great detail the organizational structure, fundraising and messaging efforts that are already in place to buttress her 2016 campaign.

Former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez said that ambivalence as a result of the pummeling Clinton’s campaign received six years ago, when many Democrats considered her a shoo-in as the Democratic nominee.

“In 2008, we got eviscerated by a better campaign on the ground,” he explained. “Lessons have been learned. So there has been extraordinary preparation and it’s a very, very different, far more sophisticated operation that’s there and it’s ready for her, should she decide to run.”

Adam Parkhomenko, who founded the organizational group Ready for Hillary, which has spent the last two years collecting a database of roughly 3 million supporters, echoed the sentiment.

“I wouldn’t have been doing this since January 2013 if I thought she was inevitable,” he said. “We learned in 2008 she’s not inevitable. No one’s inevitable.”

Stephanie Schriock, the head of EMILY’s List, who is expected to play a major role in a future Clinton campaign, said she looks forward to a “healthy primary.”

“As everyone goes through a presidential primary process, it’ll be the candidate who make the case,” she said, adding that Clinton, while clearly the front-runner, will not be immune to that process. “There’s nothing inevitable about 2016.”

Meanwhile, several Clinton backers, including Schriock, former Obama campaign organizer Mitch Stewart, Correct the Record’s David Brock, and political strategist Chris Lehane, spoke directly about what organizations would have to work together on the ground to make a 2016 Clinton campaign most effective, what issues Clinton would be most likely to emphasize, and what message the campaign would be built around. All agreed that a hypothetical Clinton campaign will likely to focus on working class voters, who are feeling increasingly marginalized in today’s economy.

Clinton must project a vision for “economic opportunity for American families,” said Schriock. That’s a phrase she used, with slight variations, twice more during a half-hour talk with reporters. The campaign will likely focus on connecting with working class voters, women, Hispanics and the African American community over issues like equal pay, minimum wage and leveling the playing field for the middle class, she said.

Nina Turner, an Ohio state senator, said that a Clinton campaign could easily motivate key voting blocs, like the African American community, by staking progressive positions on issues like prison reform or creating more economic opportunities for the working poor. But, she said, “This is not about a coronation for anybody.”

Stewart agreed that “a hypothetical Clinton campaign” would have to focus primarily economic issues. “We have to come up with an economic message that shows working class voters that we’re on their side,” said Stewart.

When asked what issues would put Clinton in the strongest position against other potential Democratic contenders, such Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, or Jim Webb, who announced yesterday that he was exploring the possibility of running, Stewart demurred. “I’m not going to comment on any hypothetical candidate,” said Stewart, laughing. “Except my specific hypothetical candidate.”

TIME Immigration

Hillary Clinton Backs President Obama’s Immigration Announcement

Hillary Clinton departs St. Ignatius Loyola church following fashion designer de la Renta's memorial service in the Manhattan borough of New York
Former first lady Hillary Clinton departs St. Ignatius Loyola church following fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's memorial service in the Manhattan borough of New York November 3, 2014. © Carlo Allegri / Reuters—REUTERS

"I support the President’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system"

As Republicans fume at President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions Thursday, his Democratic potential successor is applauding the decision.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her support for Obama’s announcement in a tweet and a statement Thursday evening. Her statement leaves no distance between herself and the president on an issue that remains politically polarizing.

Clinton, like Obama, was the subject of protests from immigration activists in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Her full statement:

I support the President’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families. I was hopeful that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would spur the House of Representatives to act, but they refused even to advance an alternative. Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action, which follows established precedent from Presidents of both parties going back many decades. But, only Congress can finish the job by passing permanent bipartisan reform that keeps families together, treats everyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security, and brings millions of hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy so they can pay taxes and contribute to our nation’s prosperity. Our disagreements on this important issue may grow heated at times, but I am confident that people of good will and good faith can yet find common ground. We should never forget that we’re not discussing abstract statistics – we’re talking about real families with real experiences. We’re talking about parents lying awake at night afraid of a knock on the door that could tear their families apart, people who love this country, work hard, and want nothing more than a chance to contribute to the community and build better lives for themselves and their children.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday night that he was giving temporary legal status and work permits to almost five million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

TIME 2016 Election

Jim Webb Announces Exploratory Committee for a Presidential Run

Then Sen. Jim Webb at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, in 2012.
Then-Sen. Jim Webb at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, in 2012. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

And so it begins.

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced late Wednesday that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for President.

The Senator, a Vietnam veteran who was elected in 2006 for a single term as a Democrat, had announced in 2012 that he was retiring from politics. Now, he’s the first potential candidate to announce an exploratory committee, which will allow him to raise funds and test the waters for a run for the White House.

“We desperately need to fix our country, and to reinforce the values that have sustained us, many of which have fallen by the wayside in the nasty debates of the last several years,” Webb says in a 14-minute video explaining his decision, in which he brandishes his cross-aisle experience working in the Reagan administration. “I hope you will consider joining me in that effort.”

The Senator raised his national profile in 2006, weeks after taking office, when he gave his party’s response to President George W. Bush’s State of the Union.

TIME 2014 Election

Exclusive: Women Turned Out for Hillary in the Midterms

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Campaigns With Jeanne Shaheen In New Hampshire
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) campaigns with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (L) at Nashua Community College in Nashua, N.H. on Nov. 2, 2014. Darren McCollester—Getty Images

Clinton's appearances on the campaign trail gave discernable bumps in female support to various Democrats, according to an analysis by Correct the Record, a pro-Hillary group

In the aftermath of the Democratic shellacking, episode 2, in the 2014 midterm elections, many pointed fingers at Hillary Clinton as an electoral loser.

“Somebody should ask Hillary Democrats why they got wiped out tonight. Clearly, Hillary is yesterday’s news,” Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and rumored 2016 presidential hopeful, said in an email to Breitbart News — just one of the many times he linked the Democratic drubbing to the party’s likeliest 2016 presidential candidate.

Added another 2016 potential GOP candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, “I think in many ways [Clinton] was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that is wrong with Washington,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. Even journalists piled on. “The loser from last night in the a 2016 context: Hillary Clinton,” said Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin.

Not so fast, says pro-Clinton group Correct the Record. The group, linked to Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, compiled polling data that shows Clinton delivered discernible bumps in female support to most of the candidates for whom she appeared or stumped, according to an analysis obtained exclusively by TIME.

Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Colorado’s Mark Udall both saw three percentage point bumps amongst women after Clinton appeared with them in the final weeks of campaigning, according to an analysis of polls before and after Clinton’s visit by the group.

Though both Hagan and Udall lost, Clinton gave incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado a turbo charge: his lead amongst women nearly tripled from a 4.8% advantage a to 12% lead after Hillary’s visit, and Hickenlooper eked out a win.

In New Hampshire and Illinois, incumbent Democratic Govs. Maggie Hassan and Pat Quinn both saw eight percentage point boosts, though it wasn’t enough to save Quinn. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters saw their support amongst women go up five percentage points apiece after Clinton’s visits.

Georgia gubernatorial hopeful Jason Carter got a 4 percentage point bump, though it didn’t help him to victory. And Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana got a 2 percentage point boost, helping her beat out Bill Cassidy 42% to 41%, though she didn’t avoid a Dec. 6 run off.

“Women’s support for Clinton translated to support for the candidates she backed in 2014, despite an overwhelming trend against Democrats in the election,” Correct the Record said in a statement released with the analysis, pointing to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s success with female voters in 2013 after Clinton campaigned for him as further evidence of the trend.

Of course, much of this support could simply be women breaking in the final month of the campaign one way or another. It’s impossible to say if Clinton was the deciding factor. And, while support amongst women who voted was boosted in each case, the number of women voting was at the lowest levels since the GOP wave of 2010, meaning that off-presidential year voters were not successfully turned out at the polls.

That said, it’s clear Clinton didn’t have a negative impact on female voters, and her underlying message of women’s empowerment could remain a potent one for 2016, should she run, where women are expected to show up in larger numbers at the polls.

Read next: Another Year of the Woman? Not Exactly

TIME politics

Is This Hillary Clinton’s Moment?

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

To win in 2016, she will need to appear fresh, aggressive and optimistic

On the Sunday before the 2014 election, a vision–perhaps a fantasy–of the future of the Democratic Party was on display at a get-out-the-vote rally in Nashua, N.H. The first speaker was Ray Buckley, chairman of the state party. Every other speaker, and there were lots, was a woman. There were two female candidates for state senate from the Nashua area. There was one of New Hampshire’s two (out of two) female members of Congress. There was Maggie Hassan, the incumbent governor. There was Jeanne Shaheen, a former governor locked in a tight race for another term in the U.S. Senate. Hillary Clinton was there too–at the last rally of 45 campaign stops she made for Democratic candidates during the 2014 campaign.

New Hampshire has always been a magic place for the Clintons. In 1992, Bill Clinton’s second-place finish gave him new life amid the Gennifer Flowers and draft-evasion scandals. In 2008, crushed by Barack Obama in Iowa, Hillary Clinton almost shed a frustrated tear on the day before the primary, then won, narrowly, keeping her candidacy alive. “You lifted me up, gave me my voice back,” she told the Nashua crowd. “You taught me so much about grit and determination.” A big “Ready for Hillary” truck was in the parking lot. It seemed the 2016 campaign had begun.

A few days later, 4 out of 5 of the female candidates onstage in Nashua won re-election, but it was an empty victory, since Democrats were crushed across the country. No doubt, the Republican sweep can be attributed to the unloved Obama, and to the fact that Presidents usually fare badly in their sixth-year election, and to the states in play, which favored the Republicans. But the Democratic candidates were weak and inept; they seemed defensive, reflexive, played out. They pretty much limited themselves to women’s issues, and those were clearly not enough to convince a frightened and frustrated country.

I watched Clinton speak three times during the campaign, and she limited herself to women’s issues too, but she did it cleverly. The emphasis was on economics rather than reproductive rights. She was especially good on the economic impact of pay equity: working women would have more money to spend, and they would spend it on consumer goods, which would create jobs–the opposite of trickle-down economics. She told specific personal stories about her difficulties as a working mom. She spoke slowly, softly, far more confidently than she had in past campaigns. There was a two-tiered rationale for her message: she was spot-on the Democrats’ national pitch, a good soldier selling the blue brand, but the emphasis on women’s rights also redressed a failing from her 2008 campaign. She had run on “experience” then and downplayed the fact that she was a piece of history: the first plausible woman to run for President. She doesn’t have to worry about experience now; everyone knows she has it. The question is, how does she play to her strengths as a woman if she chooses to run? (And I assume she will.) And how does she convince voters that she’s not the same old, same old?

The 2014 exit polls indicated that both political parties are roundly disdained. The Republicans earned their enmity because of their angry, intransigent extremism, but they may be emerging from the swamp. Their candidates this year were more moderate (though they still pandered shamelessly to the party’s paranoid base). Even Mitch McConnell was making postelection noises about getting stuff done in Washington. This raises a potential problem for Democrats. It could put a crimp in one of their strongest arguments: We’re not Republicans.

There are two even larger, perhaps existential problems for the Dems. They are the party of government, and people don’t like government. They don’t think it works. The botched rollout of Obamacare is far more persuasive to many people than its ensuing successes. Additionally, Democrats have allowed themselves to be lulled by demographics. They are strong among growing blocs: women, young people, minorities. Consequently, they have come to seem a party of identities rather than issues. They don’t speak to a larger, unifying sense of America; they speak to women and try to get out the vote among blacks, Latinos and students. They have come to seem opportunistic rather than optimistic.

The Obama Presidency is crippled, not dead. There will be opportunities for compromise and even triumph. But the Democrats are now Hillary Clinton’s party. She will be challenged for the nomination, and she will have to adjust to new political realities. She will also have to figure out a way to seem fresh, aggressive and optimistic–the precise opposite of the candidates the Democrats put forward in 2014.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Congress

Rand Paul Says These Candidates Lost Because of Hillary Clinton

After GOP won Senate control on Tuesday night

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took to the airwaves Tuesday night as the GOP celebrated its regaining of Senate control, linking Republican victories to putative dissatisfaction with possible 2016 contender Hillary Clinton.

Paul, also a presumptive candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, pointed to Clinton’s campaigning for failed Democratic candidates including Georgia’s Michelle Nunn, Iowa’s Bruce Braley, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. Paul even initiated the hashtag #HillaryLosers on his Facebook page and Twitter feed.

“Somebody should ask Hillary Democrats why they got wiped out tonight. Clearly, Hillary is yesterday’s news,” Paul said in an email to Breitbart News. He added that the midterm elections on Tuesday should be viewed as a rejection of the former Secretary of State’s track record.

Clinton has not held office since she left the Obama administration as Secretary of State in 2013 but is widely considered to be mulling a run in 2016.

TIME 2016 Election

Obama Political Guru Secretly Advised Hillary Clinton on 2016

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Dreamforce convention Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, in San Francisco.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Dreamforce convention Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, in San Francisco. Ben Margot—AP

Much of the President's team is already backing Clinton for 2016

A longtime top political adviser to President Barack Obama secretly met with Hillary Clinton recently to offer up his advice for how to avoid another presidential campaign loss if she runs again in 2016, according to a new report.

Politico, citing unnamed sources, reports that David Plouffe, the architect of Obama’s 2008 defeat of Clinton, met with the former Secretary of State in September. Clinton is widely expected to run again, and much of Obama’s political brain trust is already backing her. Plouffe reportedly advised Clinton to make better use of advanced data analytics, define a coherent rationale for her candidacy and stick to a defined message throughout a campaign.

The report details Republican efforts to develop a strategy to block Clinton from winning the White House in 2016—efforts that have yet to yield a clear answer.

“Everybody’s looking for a silver bullet, but in the absence of that we’re finding a lot of lead,” GOP strategist Michael Goldfarb said.

Read more at Politico

TIME People

Clinton and Warren, Together at Last

Both showed up in Boston to support Democratic candidate for Governor of Massachusetts Martha Coakley

Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren appeared on the same stage today, in the ballroom at Boston’s Park Plaza, but at different times. There must be some significance in that, right? Uh, no. Their appearances were complementary, not competitive. We tend to overanalyze these things at times… but it was fun to compare and contrast, all the same, as both women worked to gin up support for Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate in the Massachusetts Governor race, as she seemed to slip behind her Republican opponent Charles Baker.

Warren went first and emphasized Coakley’s willingness to take on the big banks that have been “tricking and trapping” the American people. She actually shook her fist at one point, but this was not a pitchfork speech… and not a long one, either. I’ve always been impressed by Warren’s ability to explain the complexities of financial policy in a way that civilians can understand, but she didn’t have much time for that. She stuck to the job at hand: praising Coakley as a populist hero. And she did it very well, if not transcendently.

Clinton was obviously the star of the show. She spoke after Coakley, and was given much more time than Warren. She was greeted, as both Warren and Coakley were, by a roar, though her roar may have been a smidgeon louder than the others’. She wasted no time in praising Warren as someone willing to “give it to those who deserve to get it.” (She also praised all the other elected officials present, especially Coakley.)

It will be said that Warren emphasized her break-up-the-banks populism while Clinton spoke about women’s issues, and that is true–although Clinton did offer one passing acknowledgment of Coakley as someone who was willing to fight against “corrupt financial institutions” during her years as Mass. Atty. General. But that wasn’t the most important thing about her speech. Actually, there were three important things:

1. The emphasis on women’s rights, especially equal pay, was spot on the Democrats’ most successful message in these 2014 campaigns. She told a personal story about Chelsea getting sick at the age of two, on a day when Clinton had to appear in court as a young lawyer. She told it well, making clear her anguish throughout the day, the difficulty of finding someone to take care of Chelsea (finally, “a trusted friend” volunteered to help) and the relief when she got home to find Chelsea better and reading with the friend. This was the opposite of her awkward “poor”-mouthing during her book tour. It was recognizably life-sized and very effective.

2. The story was striking to old-timers like me because this was exactly the sort of message she rarely delivered when she ran for President in 2008. She took the advice of her pollster-strategist Mark Penn and emphasized her experience rather than her gender, which was disastrously stupid. Her life-long obsession with women’s and children’s issues is a calling more than a message. Although, a message it certainly is, grounded and practical…and she laid out the financial benefits of equal pay in a way that might have made the Big Dog proud: she talked about the things that moms could buy with the extra money. Food for the kids, better daycare, maybe even a car–think about the impact on the economy! (Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if her husband had helped a little with that one.)

3. She spoke slowly, confidently, conversationally. No screaming. The audience listened intently, at times losing track of what they were supposed to do for applause lines. She didn’t try to rouse them, except at the end–when her peroration began inaudible because of the cheers.

Yes, it was packaged. Almost everything is, in politics these days. But it didn’t seem packaged. There’s a long and winding road to travel between now and 2016, but she seems to have given smarter and subtler thought to how she’s going to present herself than she did last time.

TIME

Meet America’s Most Successful Political Families

It's that time of year again: Bushes and Clintons galore are on the campaign trail supporting candidates who are up for election. Here's a look at America's most successful political dynasties

TIME On Our Radar

An Intimate Portrait of Hillary Clinton in Photographs

TIME contributor Diana Walker spent 20 years documenting Hillary Clinton's rise from First Lady to Senator, Presidential Candidate and, later, Secretary of State. She speaks to TIME LightBox about her experience

Diana Walker’s skill documenting life behind the scenes in Washington D.C. stems directly from her dedication to subjects and her often subtle approach to photography.

“I was trying to be as discreet as possible,” she tells TIME, speaking about stepping into the White House to work on her latest book Hillary: The Photographs of Diana Walker, which saw her turn her lens towards Hillary Clinton.

“I hardly ever spoke unless spoken to — I was not there for myself and I wanted them to ignore me,” she adds. “I used to rewind the film looking down and away from them so that I wouldn’t catch their eye or make them think they had to speak to me.”

Walker worked as TIME’s White House photographer for 20 years, capturing five presidencies. In that time, she also documented luminaries such as Steve Jobs with the same intimacy she often portrayed in the oval office.

Starting in 1993 within the White House’s walls, Walker documented Hillary as she moved from her roles as First Lady, Senator, Presidential Candidate and, later, Secretary of State.

IMG_9740_WR

“To have the opportunity to photograph somebody for 20 years is such a gift to a photographer,” Walker says, “Hillary Clinton, it seems to me, means a lot to women today. I think that she represents the opportunities for women in our country.”

Walker photographed Clinton for TIME up until October 2011, when she captured the now-iconic photograph of the Secretary of State putting on her shades to check her phone in the belly of a military C17 aircraft. The photograph later inspired the meme Texts from Hillary.

Is she responsible for Hillary becoming an online icon of cool? “I would love to have that reputation, ” Walker says, laughing. “I think we would all like to be cool at some stage in our lives.”

Diana Walker is a regular contributor to TIME and worked as TIME’s White House photographer for 20 years. You can see more work in her latest book Hillary and The Bigger Picture: Thirty Years of Portraits.

Paul Moakley is TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography.

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