High-profile Democrats are jumping on the “Ready for Hillary” bandwagon, supporting Clinton for president before she even enters the race -- boosting her presumptive candidacy and potentially their own political fortunes.
Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Al Franken, D-Minn., are among the biggest names to get on board -- positioning themselves in a familiar game in which early supporters are often rewarded with plum administration jobs or some political favor if their candidate wins.
“It’s a time-honored tradition,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor. “And a lot of candidates remember who was there early, who was willing to take the leap.”
What makes Clinton’s case so remarkable is the number of soft endorsements from A-list Democrats before she has officially announced whether she will run.
Kaine was among the first, telling a gathering of female Democrats in South Carolina this spring that Clinton is “the right person for the job.”
“So I’m doing my bit now to encourage Hillary Clinton to run,” he said.
Clinton appears to have plenty of encouragement, including extraordinary early-polling numbers.
A recent averaging of polls by RealClearPolitics.com shows her leading all potential Democratic White House candidates with 61.5 percent of the likely vote -- 49.2 percentage points ahead of her closest potential challenger, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Though Clinton also enjoyed the lead in early polls in her 2008 presidential run, such numbers appear enticing for politicians, donors and others looking for perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a friend in the White House and even land a top appointment.
Franken is among the most recent to give his support.
“I think that Hillary would make a great president,” he told MSNBC. “I think that I’m ready for Hillary.”
Franken, whose politics appear closer to those of Warren’s, said she is also “great” but “not running.”
The phrase “Ready for Hillary” appears to have started in January 2013 as a political action committee that organizers say “quickly became a nationwide grassroots movement” encouraging Clinton to run.
The PAC now boasts more than 2 million supporters and 50,000 donors. It has so far collected $4.43 million in donations with $875,626 in available cash, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings.
Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate, also is backing Clinton, a former first lady, secretary of State and New York senator.
Earlier this month, Dean wrote a 660-word op-ed piece in Politico in which he touted his long-time political association with Clinton and listed her professional accomplishments, declaring her “by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as president.”
“If she runs, I will support her,” he wrote.
Dean was chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2008 when Clinton and Barack Obama competed for the party’s presidential nomination and his job was to get a Democrat in the White House.
His successful effort led to speculation, particularly after he resigned from his chairmanship days after the general election, that Obama would offer him a Cabinet or other high-level administration post. However, such a deal never materialized.
Clinton appears as if she’s already running a campaign, considering she published a book and spent the past several months fulfilling a full slate of speaking engagements and stumping for fellow Democrats during the elections that concluded last month.
However, she has given no specific deadline on announcing whether she will indeed run in 2016.
That several Democratic politicians have already signed on might seem unusual. But Trippi points out that those who wait often get passed over in the game of low-risk, low-reward.
“And if an endorsement comes after the nomination it’s like ‘ehh,’ ” he said.
Among the other Democrats also throwing early support to Clinton is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who worked in the Bill Clinton administration and later served as Obama’s chief of staff.
In June, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin joined Emanuel as a headliner for a Ready for Hillary fundraiser in the Chicago area.
And California Rep. Brad Sherman, a 2008 Clinton supporter, is encouraging her to run again.
“Millions of Americans are ready for Hillary to run -- and ready to support her if she does” he said recently. “She was an outstanding senator and secretary of State. I know she will be an outstanding president.”