Special to First Read from Hotline
Select members of Sen. Hillary Clinton's political team have started to interview Democrats who might one day fill senior and mid-level positions in Clinton's yet-to-be-announced presidential campaign. Those interviewed have been asked not to tell their friends or members of the press that they've been in contact with Clinton's team, and they've been cautioned against expecting a job offer because Clinton has not formally given her team the go-ahead to assemble a campaign.
A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.
Clinton's aides, when asked about Sen. Barack Obama's aggressive presidential explorations, contend that his expected entrance into the race has not influenced the time frame for Sen. Clinton to make her decision. Some Clinton donors believe that if Obama announces shortly after the turn of the year, Clinton would decide to wait a few more weeks, pushing her own announcement into late January or early February, or beyond.
That would give her more time to assess the impact of Obama on the field, on her donors and on elected Democratic officials, and more precisely, the ability to change the storyline from him to her as soon as she entered the race. Officially, Clinton's political team has the same, somewhat exasperated response: that Sen. Clinton won't make her decision with any reference to whomever else might get in, that it's premature to speculate about her decision, and that reporters asking the questions are fishing for news where there is none. They do deny, strenuously, reports that prominent Iowa Democrats have been told Clinton is leaning against a run.
Sen. Evan Bayh, Gov. Bill Richardson, Ret. Gen. Wes Clark, Sen. John Kerry and Ex-Sen. John Edwards are all expected to announce full or exploratory presidential committees by the middle of January