Back in chilly Grundy Center, Iowa in late December of 2007, I wrote this story about why Hillary Clinton was probably going to lose the Iowa caucuses a few weeks later. Part of the problem was Clinton didn’t define herself.
One day she was courting women by bringing in her mother and daughter; the next she was chasing the military vote by appearing with former generals. This wouldn’t have been bad if she’d kept a core message throughout. And, as many lamented at the time, she seemed unwilling to play up the historic nature of her campaign until far too late in the primary season. Her concession speech, with its mention of “eight million cracks in the glass ceiling,” is the only quote from the campaign that stands out in my mind where she truly embraced that she could have been the first female president.
Fast forward six years later and a group called Ready for Hillary, composed of former Clinton staffers and fundraisers, are building what they hope will be a massive grassroots effort that their wished-for candidate might one day step in and run. Essentially, it is a 2016 shadow campaign minus the policy shop. The group already has more than a million supporters and has hired staff to do outreach to African Americans, Latinos and other interest groups. At a lunch hosted by the Washington Women Technology Network on Wednesday, Jessica Grounds, Director of Women’s Office for Ready for Hillary, laid out her vision for Clinton’s potential 2016 race. “We’re going to highlight her work with women and girls as Secretary of State,” Grounds said. “As well, obviously, the historic nature of a potential first woman President.”
Of the 35 states and the District of Columbia where exit polling with demographic data was available in 2008, Clinton won the women’s vote in 20 primaries but lost it in 16. When she lost, it was usually due to Obama’s strength with African American women and young women. He also built a better grassroots base, outraising Clinton with 124,344 female donors to her 53,613. Where Clinton won hands down was amongst older white women, but Grounds recognized that there was plenty of headway to be made with black and young women in 2016.
Young and unmarried women became a particular strength for Obama in the 2012 race, where they helped him edge out Mitt Romney. “We are aware of the disconnect between married women and young women,” Grounds says, adding she’s still formulating her strategy for both groups. She’s looking to identify volunteers nationwide to help organize regionally and focus on book club-style meetings.
Of course, the group is not an official entity and doesn’t presume to speak for Clinton. But the fact that they’re reaching out to young women voters and choosing to showcase her work with women and girls—not to mention the idea that she could be the first female president—is already a huge improvement from the 2008 campaign.