Her name won't be on the ballot in this year's Virginia gubernatorial race, but it could be hard for voters to cast a ballot for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe without thinking of Hillary Clinton and her potential bid for the presidency in 2016.
According to Politico
, McAuliffe's campaign is filled with former Clinton operatives and supporters from her 2008 presidential bid and her Senate campaigns before that. Also on board are a number of seasoned campaign staff members and aides to former President Bill Clinton, including McAuliffe himself, who was Clinton's major fundraiser for years before serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.
McAuliffe was also chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
So it's no wonder, according to Politico, that McAuliffe supporters are telling potential donors and activists to get on board his campaign now as a test drive for a much broader Clinton effort four years from now, when many of the same people will likely be steering her presidential run.
"McAuliffe's people are saying that to try to recruit staff and to make donors think they're getting in on the ground floor of Hillary 2016," one Clinton insider told Politico.
Politico reported Tuesday that among former Hillary Clinton aides, those already working with McAuliffe are his campaign manager Robby Mook, who worked in Clinton's 2008 presidential bid and served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; senior campaign adviser Patrick Hallahan; and fundraising bundlers Jackson Dunn and Jonathan Mantz.
McAuliffe, a Syracuse, N.Y., native who has lived in Virginia for more than 20 years, is also counting on many more old Clinton connections, including the former president himself, to help him raise money.
According to Politico, McAuliffe raised $2 million at several out-of-state fundraisers just last month that featured the former president, Democratic and Clinton political consultant James Carville, former Clinton adviser and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, and former Clinton campaign aide and White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers.
Virginia, which went to Obama in both 2008 and 2012, is increasingly seen as a critical swing state in the next presidential election. If McAuliffe wins in the governor's race against Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the state will more than likely lean Democratic in the 2016 presidential contest.
A recent Quinnipiac poll in Virginia put McAuliffe and the conservative Cuccinelli in a virtual dead heat.
But Cuccinelli is hoping to change that by emphasizing that McAuliffe fundraising forays outside the state won't sit well with voters. Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix told Politico Monday that McAuliffe “is raising the bulk of his money where he is most comfortable: outside the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The Republican Governors Association is also expected to take an active role in painting McAuliffe as essentially an outsider, whose primary career has been raising campaign money.
The association reportedly sent out an e-mail earlier this year to political observers reminding them that “Terry McAuliffe’s greatest strength as a candidate — his ability to raise money — may also be one of his most fatal flaws.”
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