Millennials Shunned Hillary in 2008. Her Shadow Campaign Won’t Let It Happen Again.
Patrick Caldwell | Mother Jones, April 15, 2014
When Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2008, there was one key voting bloc that derailed her presidential bid: college students and young adults, who threw their support behind Barack Obama. Ready for Hillary, the primary super-PAC paving the way for a Clinton 2016 campaign, is already hard at work to make sure history doesn't repeat itself should she decide to enter the race.
The group brought in former Obama campaign youth vote coordinator Rachel Schneider to oversee outreach to voters ages 16 to 30, with a particular focus on those still in school. Schneider has spent the last few months traveling around the country to set up satellite organizations on college campuses with the goal of attracting all of the best student organizers to Clinton's side before any other Democrat launches a presidential campaign. Earlier this year, she swung through Missouri and South Carolina. Last week, Schneider toured New Hampshire's main colleges, and she's scheduled to visit Iowa next week, where she'll meet with students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Drake University, and the University of Northern Iowa.
There are now 33 Students for Hillary groups nationwide. So far they're recruiting the most die-hard activists to prepare for next fall, when they'll blitz new students during orientation to build Hillary's army. "I've been focused on identifying students on campuses who are interested in being part of this movement from the ground floor," Schneider says. For Democratic-leaning students interested in a career in politics it's a no-brainer: leading a Students for Hillary group will position them as prime contenders for low-level jobs in Clinton's actual campaign.
"It's pretty neat to sort of rally around this person even without them having stated intentions to run," says Monica Diaz, president of the Iowa State University College Democrats, who's in discussions with Schneider about setting up a Students for Hillary group at her school. "I hope we can rally up enough people to push her to run, and by starting this early, I think we can."
Schneider, 25, studied journalism at Northwestern University but gravitated to politics. She joined Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, first as an intern--"I was in a paying job and [the deputy youth director] convinced me to leave my paying job to intern on the campaign," she says--then eventually worked her way up to national youth vote coordinator. Schneider looks straight out of the catalog of stereotypes for the Obama generation. When we met in Ready for Hillary's Arlington office in early April, she wore a bright plaid shirt and chunky hipster eyeglasses. After Obama won, Schneider conducted a study for the Youth Engagement Fund (a project of the Democracy Alliance) on what various campaigns--including Obama's--did to organize students during 2012. She has carried those lessons to her work at Ready for Hillary. "It was a really extended post-mortem and analysis," she says. "I learned an unbelievable amount."
Ready for Hillary is working with 270 Strategies, a consulting firm founded by two Obama alums, to build their campus strategy. "A campaign can get many benefits from recruiting a college student," says Mitch Stewart, one of the firm's cofounders and the Obama campaign's director of field operations in Iowa when Obama won the 2008 caucuses thanks to strong student turnout. "Beyond getting their vote, you can get a lot of energy and activism and enthusiasm that can invigorate an entire campaign." College students--with their abundance of free time, few obligations, and fresh-faced enthusiasm--are often the foot soldiers campaigns depend on for door-knocking and phone-banking.
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