2016 hints left on campaign trail
Travel schedules may signal Democrats’ intentions
To learn who is serious about running for president on the Democratic side in 2016, just look at the prospective candidates’ travel schedules ahead of the November midterm elections.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley all have begun campaigning for fellow Democrats at a furious pace, with personal appearances in the crucial presidential primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
By contrast, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, has avoided stops in those two states but has campaigned for Democrats elsewhere, lending credence to her claim that she will resist mounting pressure for a White House bid.
Months before the presidential race truly begins, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and especially Mr. O’Malley — who has stumped for local and state candidates in Iowa and attended picnics for county Democratic parties in New Hampshire — already are fixtures on the campaign trail, raising money for key candidates while laying the groundwork for their own potential ambitions.
Their campaigning has included personal visits, stump speeches and fundraising emails on behalf of Democratic Party organizations, The most active candidates have focused not only on Iowa and New Hampshire, but also states with hotly contested Senate, congressional and gubernatorial races.
Analysts say all presidential candidates, whether household names such as Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Biden or national newcomers such as Mr. O’Malley, must enter the political fray of the midterm elections if they are to have any shot at their party’s nomination two years down the line.
“It happens every cycle, and every cycle it seems to get more and more pronounced,” said David Yepsen, director of Southern Illinois University’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute who spent 34 years as a political writer and editor at The Des Moines Register. “It’s expected. It’s part of the ritual of presidential politics that you do this sort of thing. It’s no guarantee, but if you don’t do it in these states, that’s a mark against you.”
Mrs. Clinton, who remains miles ahead of her potential primary rivals in virtually all polls, is only now ramping up her campaign schedule, building on a high-profile visit to retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s traditional steak fry in Iowa.
Over the next month, the former secretary of state reportedly plans to hit the stump for Democratic Senate candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Kentucky and elsewhere. She also will campaign for gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania — where Democrat Tom Wolf is poised to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett — Massachusetts, Illinois and other states.
In addition, Mrs. Clinton has begun sending out fundraising emails for Democratic organizations.
Separate from the former first lady’s personal plans, the Ready for Hillary PAC, raising money and mounting grass-roots support in anticipation of a Clinton presidential bid, dispatched staff to key battleground states last week. Through Election Day on Nov. 4, staffers will be in Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, South Carolina and elsewhere.
“This staff deployment is part of Ready for Hillary’s continued commitment to channeling the enthusiasm for a potential Hillary campaign into helping Democrats on the ballot this year,” Ready for Hillary spokesman Seth Bringman said.
Much like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden also has focused a great deal of attention on candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. At Mr. Harkin’s steak fry, the vice president personally made a pitch for Bruce Braley, the Democrat running to fill Mr. Harkin’s Senate seat.
Polls show Mr. Braley in a tight race with Republican Joni Ernst.
Mr. Biden also has raised money for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, who is being challenged by Republican Scott Brown.
Mr. Biden also has sent fundraising emails for numerous Democratic Party organizations. This year alone, he has participated in or is scheduled to participate in about three dozen Democratic fundraisers or rallies, according to the vice president’s office.
While Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Biden have maintained high profiles in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. O’Malley has plunged even deeper into the political fray in those states.