Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will need to raise $100 million over the next 20 months if she hopes to clear the field of serious Democratic challengers, top Democratic operatives say.
“I would think you’d want an eye popping number to clear the field,” said one senior Democratic official. “I think the $100 million commitment would say to potential opponents ‘think before you jump to your death.’”
Clinton herself does not have to raise the cash to clear the field of effective rivals, explains one Clinton insider, “If a super PAC raises $75 million to $125 million in the next two years, that’s formidable and it indicates that there is really strong support [for her].”
Clinton remains among the best-regarded figures in American politics and any potential rival would be forced to spend massive amounts of time and money to compete. But Clinton insiders say she won’t leave anything to chance if she runs, and in preparation, neither are they.
In the first quarter of 2007 Clinton reported a fundraising total of $36 million, including a $10 million transfer from her Senate campaign. She was ahead of then-Sen. Barack Obama, but not by much — he had raised nearly $26 million, almost entirely from individual donors.
Now, Clinton backers and Democratic operatives agree she or allies would need to raise multiples of that figure to clear the field of serious challengers in 2016 — and a year earlier. More than a half-dozen senior Democratic officials and Hillary confidants puts the goal at roughly $100 million by the end of 2014, a marker no other Democrat could approach so soon.
“We’ve learned our lesson,” said the Clinton insider.
Supporters are ready to begin fundraising through the super PAC Ready For Hillary. “I’ve told her supporters — get a super PAC and raise a ton of money,” said one top Obama campaign adviser. “That’s how you clear the field.”
And Democrats believe Clinton has the luxury of waiting until mid-2015 to pull the trigger on a presidential run.
“If she announced today she’d probably drop 20 points,” the Clinton insider said. “That’s why she waits, and that’s why the super PAC helps — she can build without being seen.”
Not since 1951 has there been such a strong draft movement in either from the grassroots to the donor class. And unlike with Eisenhower, Clinton confidants are giving their blessing to the effort.
“[Ready for Hillary] in my view is extraordinarily credible,” said the Clinton insider. “It has only Secretary Clinton’s interest at heart.” Former adviser James Carville lent his name to the super PAC for use in a fundraising email last week and fundraiser Harold Ickes is advising the group.
A $100 million goal is now well within reach thanks in part to the Citizens United decision allowing unlimited personal and corporate donors to independent groups.
“This super PAC can line up some major donors and also organize the grassroots — throw some surrogates in and it’s easy,” said one Democratic strategist.
Asked if the target can be hit, the Clinton insider replied simply, “yes.”
One adviser to a potential rival put the figure far lower: “Her entrance into the race all but clears the field,” the adviser said.