Political passions stir as Hillary Clinton prepares book release
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton is in a purple suit, sitting in a living room, pink flowers just visible in the background, speaking with passion to the camera about her views of the world and what can be done to fight the “cancer of inequality” in the United States.
“It doesn’t happen by accident, or wishing for it, or engaging in ideological and rhetorical battles,” she says in a new video. “It happens because people come together.”
It could easily be viewed as the first political ad of the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead, it is part of a book launch, a rollout that is widely seen as a central component of a shadow presidential campaign.
Over the next several weeks, Clinton will be touring the country to promote “Hard Choices,” which comes out June 10 and has already reached 1 million pre-orders.
The book tour — and an accompanying publicity blitz of magazine stories, television interviews, and savvy social media — provides a thinly disguised way to put her spin on her four years as secretary of state and spell out her agenda. But the seeming inevitability of her candidacy is creating some angst among Democrats, including Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who worry that the party will be robbed of a robust primary debate that can help sharpen candidates.
Some Democrats even worry that if she does not run, after all this buildup, the party will be caught without a viable candidate.
Republicans, meanwhile, have the luxury of focusing most of their fire on Clinton, hoping to whittle away at her carefully crafted story. GOP operative Karl Rove, who recently made headlines by questioning Clinton’s health, said Monday on Fox News that voters are not looking for someone he described as “old and stale.”
“If it looks like you are the candidate, then people tend to pick at your faults and tend to look at alternatives,” Rove said, demonstrating his theory by picking at what he perceived to be the faults of the 66-year-old Clinton.
Clinton, meanwhile, was at the White House on Thursday for lunch with Obama, a meeting that was not on the president’s public schedule and was discovered only after People Magazine, following an interview with Clinton, tweeted a photo of her getting ready for the visit. The White House and Clinton aides did not say what was discussed.
Clinton’s associates and supporters are using this period to accelerate the laying of groundwork for the prospective candidate. Clinton aides on Friday are slated to meet with supporters at the centrist think tank Third Way to talk about several issues, including one of the thorniest for a Clinton campaign: the attack on the US compound in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed, during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
Ready for Hillary, a political action committee that formed to try to persuade Clinton to run — and, if she does, be ready with a network of supporters — has raised $5.7 million. Some of the top donations come from billionaire George Soros and Marc Benioff, chief executive of cloud computing firm Salesforce.com. Barbara Lee, the Cambridge-based philanthropist, has donated $20,000 to the PAC.
Several anti-Clinton groups have formed too, most prominently the Stop Hillary PAC, which has raised nearly $500,000.
The book rollout has been carefully orchestrated. For Mother’s Day, an excerpt focused on Clinton’s mother ran in Vogue, and a video on how she wrote the book appeared on People magazine’s website. The publisher released the book’s “author’s note” on Tuesday, and a video appeared on the Facebook page for the book the next day.
Clinton is planning to sit down for an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News on June 9 and with Fox News’s Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren on June 17.
Given her standing as one of the world’s best-known politicians, a former first lady, secretary of state, and senator, and an unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate — and the author of “Living History” and “It Takes a Village” — it is not clear what new nuggets will be revealed in “Hard Choices.” But her closest associates insist there is more to say beyond what she has written in the two previous major books.
“My feeling about her book is the more people read it and get to know her, the more people will like her,” said Lanny Davis, a friend and adviser.
Polls show her in a top position — a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 55 percent of those surveyed said they would support Clinton for president in 2016 — but she was considered inevitable in 2007, too, before Barack Obama, then a freshman senator from Illinois, upended her plans.
The publisher, Simon and Schuster, declined to say which stops she will be making on the book tour. A spokesman said she would make a stop in New England but would not say where. Several political observers said she would probably stop in Boston, but predicted she would not wade into New Hampshire.
Even close allies to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat and Clinton ally who is running for reelection, were unsure whether Clinton would campaign with her. It is more likely that Bill Clinton would stump with Shaheen, since a Hillary Clinton campaign event would turn into speculation about her presidential aspirations — not Shaheen’s Senate race.
New Hampshire, in fact, is a microcosm of the reaction among activists around the country to a potential Clinton campaign.
By this time in past cycles, there would have been some activity already in the Granite State, such as low-key visits or courting of potential endorsements or staff hirings. While Republicans have been doing those things, there has been almost no activity for Democrats.
“It’s relatively quiet, and I think it’s because there’s so much support out there for Hillary Clinton and everybody’s waiting to see what she does — and hoping that she does run,” said Kathy Sullivan, the New Hampshire co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. “I’ve never seen anything like this where you have a non-incumbent [about whom] basically so many people are saying, ‘This is the person we want, this is the candidate we want to run for president.’ ”
That has led to concern among some Democrats about Clinton running without a credible primary challenger.
“She is an enormously capable candidate and leader, but I do worry about the inevitability, because I think it’s off-putting to the average voter,” Patrick told CNN this month. “And I think that was an element of her campaign the last time. As an enthusiastic Democrat, I just hope that the people around her pay attention to that this time around.”
One Democrat who has been making some modest moves in New Hampshire is Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who is scheduled to speak at a Democratic dinner in Manchester on June 13 and, a week later, at the Iowa Democratic Party state convention in Des Moines.
Vice President Joe Biden, who has not ruled out running, played down interest in a presidential bid during a March visit to the first-primary state.
“I’m here about jobs,” Biden said after touring a microwave component manufacturer in Manchester. “Not mine.”
Larry Rasky, a longtime Biden confidant and campaign strategist, said he expects Biden and Clinton to each make decisions early next year. He viewed the Clinton book as a smart strategy.
“Are there people who would like to slow down the train? I’m sure there are,” he said. “But that status of front-runner is hers for the foreseeable future.”
Nothing, of course, is certain. Clinton won the 2008 New Hampshire primary, a victory that at the time was considered vital to her campaign’s effort to blunt some of Obama’s early momentum after he won the Iowa caucuses. The state has also had a long relationship with Bill Clinton, giving him a second-place showing in 1992 that earned him the nickname, “The Comeback Kid.”
“She’s still the talk of the town, there’s no question about that,” said New Hampshire state Senator Lou D’Allesandro, a prominent Clinton supporter. “It’d be great to have her in New Hampshire. She’d do a lot for our tourist industry.”