Clinton building vast network of campaign staff, volunteers

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

MANKATO — Scott Hogan wanted to know why his batch of potential volunteers was “ready for Hillary.” The campaign staffer didn’t get the answer he wanted, but it was enough to get the conversation started.

“To tell you the truth, I like Bernie Sanders for just his honesty, but I don’t think he’s electable,” said Gina Casey, 59, sitting at a conference table at a Democratic Party office. “So, I’m trying to love Hillary and I need to know more.”

A former gun control activist hired by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign to organize the reliably Democratic state, Hogan made the pitch for his boss over Sanders, the independent Vermont senator mounting a longshot challenge for the Democratic nomination.

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“This campaign is about you,” Hogan told Casey and a handful of other Democrats gathered on a hot Tuesday night in this small southern Minnesota city. “It’s not about me. It’s not about Hillary. It’s about how best to move this country forward.”

In a presidential race likely to include more than 20 candidates, none has an operation like Clinton.

In just eight weeks since announcing her plans to run for president, Clinton has deployed an army of roughly 100 organizers such as Hogan nationwide and opened 15 offices in early-voting states — far more than any other candidate of either party in the 2016 contest.

The overwhelming favorite for her party’s nomination, Clinton doesn’t necessarily need the volunteers now. But worried she will lack the power of a competitive primary to energize the core group of supporters she will need for the general election, Clinton’s team has set off on an early hiring spree that’s all but unprecedented.

“You can’t get to a point where the polls are tight and say, ‘Oh, wow, we need to do some organizing,’” said Marlon Marshall, Clinton’s director of state campaigns and political engagement. “These organizing relationships will create a sense of urgency to let people know why we have to do this work now.”