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Busy March for Hillary Clinton could presage campaign launch

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Jan. 21, 2015.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Jan. 21, 2015.

After months of relative quiet, Hillary Clinton is pressing ahead with preparations for a return to the campaign trail, ramping up her public activity in March ahead of an almost certain campaign launch.Clinton has only one public appearance scheduled for February -- a paid speech at a Silicon Valley conference for women -- but will significantly expand her profile in March with at least four appearances. First up, she’ll receive an award at the 30th anniversary gala of Emily’s List, the powerful Democratic group that works to get more pro-choice women elected to office. Emily’s List’s founder Ellen Malcolm co-chaired Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and the group has been one the former secretary of state’s key outside allies. The March 3 event will give her an opportunity to speak about need to get more more women in elected office -- perhaps even the White House.

Next, Clinton will be inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York City on March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Clinton is not Irish -- her parents are of English, Welsh, Scottish, and French descent -- but as first lady, she played a key role in the peace process in Northern Ireland. “She galvanized women's groups on both sides by meeting with them, shaping their agenda and making sure they always had a friend in the U.S. administration,” said Irish America co-founder Niall O'Dowd. Two of her potential Democratic primary opponents, Vice President Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, along with her husband Bill Clinton, are previously inductees.

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After that, Clinton heads to Atlantic City, New Jersey for a paid speech on March 19 to the American Camp Association, an industry group of summer camp professionals. Four days later, she’s back in Washington to present a journalism award named in honor of Robin Toner, the first woman to be named national political reporter for The New York Times.What Clinton does next is the key question for Clinton watchers and Democrats alike.People close to Clinton say her plans have not changed since April was first identified as likely launch window for a campaign, and that her preparation is pressing ahead full steam.  Some Clinton allies, however, say the presumed Democratic front-runner might wait until as late as July to formally announce her campaign. They say she might also opt to form an exploratory committee or PAC in the spring, and then wait until Summer for a formal launch.  Clinton’s strength buys her time, but some Democrats fear she risks appearing like she’s taking the Democratic primary system for granted if she waits too long.

Meanwhile, outside groups are keeping up enthusiasm for the likely candidate. The pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary this week reported raising more than $740,000 in the last five weeks of 2014, for a total haul of more than $12.9 million since it was created two years ago. 

Other Democratic 2016 hopefuls are also ramping up activity. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will make two appearances at a progressive festival in Pennsylvania this weekend, before speaking on his economic plan at the Brookings Institution in Washington Monday. Later this month, he’ll make three-day swing through Iowa.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has a busy March as well, with appearances at Democratic events in South Carolina, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Iowa. His O’Say Can You See PAC, which he is using the lay the groundwork for a presidential run, reported raising more than $191,000 in the last five weeks of the year.