Ready for Hillary super PAC meets up in St. Petersburg



Craig Smith
  • Craig Smith
Speaking during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association on Monday, Hillary Clinton was asked about the chances that she would run for president in 2016. "I'm not thinking about it,"she replied. "I am trying to get other people not to think about it. I will think about it in the future sometime, but right now let’s think about what we have to do to continue building on our success."

Good luck with that.

On Monday night one of the most unusual political phenomena in recent history  — a presidential non-campaign for someone who hasn't even announced she's running — continued to unfold when Craig Smith spoke at a fundraiser for the Ready for Hillary super PAC at the St. Pete-Clearwater Marriott. Smith is a long-time friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and the senior adviser for the super PAC, which was formed a year ago to harness the energy of Hillary supporters and lay the groundwork for a 2016 campaign — if in fact there is one.

"She has to make a tough decision," Smith said to the more than 100 people at the event. "But the fact that people like you are out here evidencing your support, hopefully will make that decision for her easy."

Make no mistake about it, the appeal that Clinton has with a wide swath of Democrats is very real. Some of those in attendance at Monday's event said that although they ultimately supported Barack Obama in his epic battle against Clinton in 2007-2008, they were always supporters and are happy to get behind her candidacy this early in the campaign cycle.

Smith said that Ready for Hillary has signed up 1.8 million people on email lists, and 700,000 have agreed to volunteer in any way they can if the former first lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State does decide to run for the Democratic nomination.

The PAC counts 40,000 people as contributors, with 98 percent of those contributions less than $100. Smith said that half are in the exact amount of $20.16. "So it turns out it did work," he says about the concern that organizers had when they created the super PAC last year.

As Smith told the crowd, Ready for Hillary is not a campaign. They are not doing any polling, not hiring any state directors, not taking any policy positions. They are there simply as a support system for Mrs. Clinton, getting the campaign infrastructure set now so they won't be caught unprepared as they were in 2007, when the brainy young people in Democratic politics were creating a campaign system unlike any previously seen.

"This is all about building infrastructure, " says Alan Clendenin, First Vice Chair of the Florida Democratic Party and a member of the finance committee for Ready for Hillary. "We're able to identify individuals who want to be actively involved, creating a database."

And even though some question putting together such an infrastructure so early in the campaign cycle, Clendenin thinks that by engaging some voters now who usually only think of politics during presidential election years, they can get behind some state races this November, or in the case of Pinellas County Democrats, get behind Alex Sink's candidacy for Congress in the March special election.

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long says the time has come to have a woman in the presidency. "I'd like to see that in my lifetime," said the 69-year-old lawmaker. "God knows a lot of us have worked so hard to get her there."

Craig Smith guesses that Clinton will make her decision about whether to run in a year or so, after the holidays and after the smoke clears from the 2014 midterm elections.

"She's told me 'no' 100 times over the last 40 years," he said to the crowd about asking her if she wanted to run for president. "But can she tell 5 million people no? I hope not?"

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