Hillary Clinton is taking her time announcing a second presidential run, and that's good news for some hoping to challenge her for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
“She’s the pacesetter in this thing. If she goes in January, that puts a lot of pressure against anybody who wants to compete against her,” said Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic strategist who is now advising Sen. Bernie Sanders on a prospective presidential run. “If she holds off, that gives others more opportunity to organize, particularly on the ground.”
Even as the super PAC Ready for Hillary has been working for almost two full years to build a list of 3 million Clinton supporters, the former secretary of state herself has been moving slowly. She's now expected to wait until spring to announce a run, if she decides to make one.
Meanwhile, Clinton has scheduled paid speaking gigs as late as mid-March, and allies point to April as the most likely time for an announcement -- a big change from her first presidential run, when she made her move in January.
The extra time will give potential opponents a chance to catch up with the Clinton juggernaut, and might be especially useful for activists trying to change Sen. Elizabeth Warren's mind about a 2016 presidential race. Their draft campaign officially kicked Wednesday night in Iowa, and even though Warren reiterated that she's not running, the drafters say a lot could change in the coming months.
“This time before candidates announce is a key moment for us to organize and build momentum to show that Elizabeth Warren is the leader our country needs,” Erica Sagrans, the campaign manager for the super PAC Ready for Warren, told msnbc.
Her group was joined this week by MoveOn.org and Democracy for America (DFA), two of the largest progressive groups in the country, which together pledged at least $1.25 million to the draft Warren effort. “Every additional day gives us a little more time to develop the infrastructure and support necessary to turn that passion into a movement that will build progressive power and change minds,” said DFA’s Neil Sroka.
A poll this week from Monmouth University found that Democratic voters like Clinton, but want her to face a primary challenge. Almost half said they wanted Clinton to be their party’s nominee in 2016 -- compared to just 6% who said the same for Warren -- but the same portion said it would be better if she faced an active primary. Even 41% of Clinton supporters said they preferred a challenge.
But even as those hoping to draft Warren stressed their decisions are not dependent on those of any other prospective candidate, they acknowledged the benefit of more time. “The more people get excited about her potential presidency, and the more senator warren sees what the response is like in Iowa and across the country, the more she'll see that running for president is the biggest opportunity she has to make difference in the lives of regular people,” said Ben Wikler of MoveOn.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is already staffing up for a presidential run, has decided to delay his own potential announcement until spring, reflecting Clinton’s delayed timeline, according to The Washington Post.
So far, former Sen. Jim Webb is the only major Democrat to formally announce that he’s exploring a presidential run.
The move caught some other potential candidates by surprise, including Sanders, who is seriously considering a run, but had hoped to take his time on the decision. “He thinks that campaigns too long,” said one source close to the senator, even though “some people are pushing him to get out there.” But with Clinton’s delayed schedule now clear, Sanders will have more time to assess support before making a decision.
Sanders has been loathe to say anything negative about Clinton, but in a public television interview while visiting Iowa this week, the senator criticized “ruling families" who dominate presidential politics.
Some Clinton advisors pushed for an early announcement, echoing her 2007 timeline, but she decided to take her time for both personal and political reasons, allies say. “Some in the orbit argued that Hillary should form an early exploratory committee. The winning argument was that her timeline should be well-thought-out and personal,” said one Clinton ally.
A slower timeline will spare her from several months on the grueling campaign trail, save millions of dollars, and give her more time with her new granddaughter. An April announcement would also allow her to skip the first campaign finance reporting deadline of the year, meaning her first fundraising report wouldn't come out until July.
And the presence of three quasi-official pro-Clinton super PACs, often referred to as the “shadow campaign,” mean Clinton can count on people doing work on her behalf, even if she’s not in the race herself.