Updated at: 06/20/2013 1:35 AM
By KEN THOMAS
(AP) WASHINGTON - Sen. Claire McCaskill endorsed an outside political group encouraging Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for president in 2016, saying it was important for Democrats to build a groundswell of support for the former secretary of state.
The Missouri Democrat’s support of the Ready for Hillary PAC on Tuesday marked the first time a member of Congress has endorsed the group. The organization does not have official ties to the former first lady, but it’s trying to lay the foundation for another Clinton campaign.
McCaskill, an early supporter of Barack Obama when he was running for president in 2008, said Clinton had to give up her political operation when she joined Obama’s Cabinet in 2009. "It’s important that we start early, building a grassroots army from the ground up, and effectively using the tools of the Internet _ all things that President Obama did so successfully _ so that if Hillary does decide to run, we’ll be ready to help her win," the senator said.
Clinton has not said whether she will undertake another White House bid, but she would be considered the party’s leading contender for the Democratic nomination should she run. The wife of former President Bill Clinton has been traveling the country delivering paid speeches and is writing a book on her time at the State Department. She recently outlined plans to promote early childhood development issues, women’s equality and economic development through her family’s foundation.
The Ready for Hillary PAC has recruited a number of Clinton supporters, including political strategist James Carville and former Clinton adviser Craig T. Smith, to help its cause and recently started a fresh fundraising campaign. The super PAC, which can accept and spend unlimited amounts of money, will release its first fundraising report in July.
The group is the most prominent effort by Democrats to rally behind Clinton _ in ways large and small _ more than three years before the next presidential election.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was asked Tuesday at an event sponsored by Third Way, a centrist think tank, whether she might sometime run for president. Gillibrand, who succeeded Clinton in the Senate, said she was "personally urging Secretary Clinton to run," eliciting applause at a luncheon discussing gay marriage.
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