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Clinton machine gears up for possible 2016 run

AFP-JIJI

With the news that America’s largest liberal fundraising group is to back a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential bid in 2016, a growing sense of inevitability is building around her prospective candidacy.

The former secretary of state who once occupied the White House as first lady and narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2008, has been coy about whether she plans to run again.

But she has said that she will decide this year and, with a full 24 months before even the first party primaries, the “draft Clinton” movement is not waiting for its heroine to formally make an announcement.

She swamps other potential Democratic contenders in the polls, including Vice President Joe Biden, another 2008 Democratic challenger defeated by then-Sen. Barack Obama’s victorious campaign.

Meanwhile, the man once seen as her most dangerous Republican challenger, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is battling a scandal in his home state.

Clinton is scheduled to give three speeches in April before business groups in reliably Democratic California, further fueling speculation that the 66-year-old veteran is nurturing a candidacy.

Priorities USA Action, a nonprofit political group that brought in $78 million for Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, confirmed Thursday it plans to raise money for Clinton from rich Democrats.

The group named 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, a veteran political operator with deep ties to wealthy donors, as its co-chair, essentially ensuring the most high-profile Democratic push of the coming election cycle.

He is joined at the helm by ex-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, an energetic Clinton backer and who has spoken for grass roots political action committee, “Ready For Hillary.”

Political analyst Tobe Berkovitz said the moves are early efforts at “big-footing potential challengers on the Democratic side and also freezing the big donors from going anywhere else.”

Part of the plan appears to be for the Clinton camp to burnish the inevitability of her candidacy, showing she is hungry to make history as the United States’ first female president.

But is it happening too early?

Berkovitz said news of the powerful groups aligning with Clinton is good for her but warned it may have been better to appear inevitable a year from now when voters are closer to making their decisions.

And yet the enormous early enthusiasm for Clinton is a “tremendous asset,” argued Mitch Stewart, Obama’s battleground states director in 2012, who now advises Ready For Hillary.

“I think you’re seeing people coalesce around that excitement because it’s very rare, if ever, to see something like that especially three years before the actual election,” he said.

“For us not to take advantage of both the enthusiasm that we’re seeing across the country but also the time that we have, again I think it would be gross malpractice.”

As if the world needs reminding that Clinton’s gravitational pull is increasing, last week’s New York Times Magazine cover featured a much-debated “Planet Hillary,” an orb bearing Clinton’s face.

The image also contains a nod to potential threats to her campaign from the aura of scandal that still cloud memories of her husband’s presidency, featuring as it does a “Friends of Bill” black hole.