One of the most potent outside liberal-oriented political groups announced on Thursday that it would back Hillary Rodham Clinton if she chooses to seek the White House in 2016, the latest sign that senior members of President Barack Obama’s team were looking to line up with the former first lady.
Priorities USA brought on board Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager and the latest Obama insider to join a pro-Clinton group. With so many Obama veterans lining up to help clear the way for a Clinton campaign, it perhaps adds pressure on Clinton to go forward with another White House bid.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator and first lady, says she has not yet decided if she will again seek the White House. But that has not stopped supporters from building a political machine in case she decides to turn the key.
The early alignment for Priorities USA sends a clear signal that high-dollar donors were awaiting a Clinton decision and were ready to fork over millions to promote and defend Clinton from Republican criticism that conservative groups have been leveling for months, trying to weaken her standing.
Other pro-Clinton outside groups have been forming and working to defend her record in her absence. Correct the Record, for instance, has been trying to debunk Republicans’ criticism of her decades in public service while Ready for Hillary has been organizing low-dollar fundraisers for her aimed as much at showing grassroots support as building a list of would-be-volunteers if Clinton joins the race.
But the formal shift for Priorities signals that big-dollar donors were ready to join the Clinton bandwagon. Priorities and its sister super PAC, Priorities USA Action, both can raise unlimited sums of money and share staff members. But Priorities USA operates under a part of the tax code governing nonprofit groups and can keep its donors secret. The super PAC must release the names of its funders.
Priorities helped raise millions for Obama’s re-election and ran some of the election’s toughest television ads defining Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a heartless corporate raider.
After 2012, the group considered various options, but its donors clamored for Priorities to become the de facto pro-Clinton super PAC.