Hillary Clinton hasn’t announced her intent to enter the 2016 presidential race, but a coalition of African American loyalists are urging Clinton to toss her hat into the ring.
Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Seton Hall Professor Mark Alexander, who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, have created an African American outreach initiative to encourage black Americans to support Clinton. Their efforts are part of “Ready for Hillary,” a national super-PAC designed to raise money for Clinton and mobilize voters around a potential Clinton candidacy.
The coalition’s goal, according to Program Director Quentin James, is to engage the black community in barber shops and beauty salons across the country. The group also plans to share their message about Clinton on the campuses of historically black colleges to galvanize young voters.
“Whether in her days as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, or as a United States Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has always prioritized issues of importance in the black community,” James said on a conference call with reporters.
“Our sole purpose is to convince her,” James said. “We are an outside grass roots organization pushing her to run for office.”
The black mobilization effort comes as two recent polls show Clinton as a clear frontrunner with sizable leads over potential opponents. A Washington Post poll gave Clinton a 60-point lead over Vice President Joe Biden, her nearest rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
“Clinton isn’t just leading in early polling; she’s dominating to an extent that only incumbents have achieved in the modern era,” the Post reported.
And in a CNN/ORC poll, Clinton leads scandal-plagued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by 16 points, 55 percent to 39 percent of the vote among registered voters.
Polls matter and even though Clinton has not indicated whether she will run for president, Alexander said his group is prepared to spring into action if, and when, Clinton rallies the troops.
“We are individuals who are trying to make sure that Hillary Clinton knows that she has tremendous support, an army of grass roots supporters behind her and that means she will know we can be activated the moment she makes a decision to run for president,” he said.
Last year, Clinton told Barbara Walters of ABC News that she will make her decision this year.
“Obviously, I will look carefully at what I think I can do,” Clinton said. “It’s such a difficult decision, and it’s one that I’m not going to rush into.”
Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) says he’s can’t wait for Hillary Clinton to decide. O’Malley told The Washington Post that he is holding meetings with experts in domestic and foreign policy to build a possible campaign.
“I have a great deal of respect for Hillary Clinton,” O’Malley told the Post. “But for my own part, I have a responsibility to prepare and to address the things that I feel a responsibility to address. . . .To squander this important period of preparation because of horse-race concerns and handicapping concerns is just not a very productive use of energy. . . . Right now, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing — the thought work and the preparation work.”
But if Clinton decides to run, O’Malley may stand down.
Last year, “Ready for Hillary” announced the formation of its national finance council. Founding members include Susie Tompkins Buell, a San Francisco-based philanthropist and entrepreneur who played a key fundraising role in Clinton’s last presidential bid, and Houston attorneys Steve and Amber Mostyn. The group raised more than $4 million in 2013 from more than 33,000 donors, according to published reports.
“There is a great deal of interest around “Ready for Hillary,” Franklin said on the conference call. “And this is a unique opportunity for us to keep (black) people energized and engaged. This is a marathon and we have to pass the baton.”
(AP Photo: In this Jan. 27, 2014, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in New Orleans.)