Hillary, Inc.

The women campaign staffers behind Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign are a tight-knit group that’s ready for anything.

By Ann Gerhart

Hillary Is EverywhereI’ve been around presidential campaign events where there’s this feverish sense that everything is going to unravel disastrously in the next minute. The candidate is late, the crowd is restless, the sound system is screeching, the cooks for the pancake breakfast have run out of batter, the press is hungry and officious twenty-something staffers are running around barking at everybody.This rarely happens with Team Hillary.Just inside the entrance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in a nondescript building in Arlington, Virginia, where the nearest deli is the conveniently named Eat ‘n’ Run, a young woman is handing over piles of bumper stickers and buttons to an older couple who are hosting a Hillary party. They ask lots of questions; the campaign worker has all the answers. There is no "Let me take your name, and I’ll get back to you." Rapidly but precisely, she runs through the fund-raising rules: They can’t take cash for the political memorabilia; they must ask for checks; and they should discourage pledges because money now is better than a promise of money later. "And remember," she says brightly, "it’s just like when public television does its fall campaign. You’re not selling them something; they’re contributing!" Elsewhere, at an outdoor festival crowded with thousands of potential Democratic voters, John Edwards’s volunteers are nowhere to be found, and the Barack Obama staff consists of two folks handing out stickers on a side street. But Hillary’s presence can be seen blocks away. A handful of volunteers have mounted an elaborate poster on a pole, which is paraded up and down the street all afternoon, the candidate’s face beaming down at the throng. The message — WE ARE EVERYWHERE — is unmistakable.Yes, this is incremental. But elections are won one vote at a time, and Hillary’s historic bid seems to hum along with a calm, disciplined, consistent energy that has frustrated her Democratic challengers. Her strategy may be dismissed by pundits as robotic and too safe. But from the outside, at least, it appears the stumbles are few, the recoveries quick, and leaks from inside the operation nearly nonexistent. Team Hillary — a coterie of devoted women who have been working with Clinton since her days as first lady — is at work.Women and HillaryOne afternoon, I drop in at the National Women’s Finance Summit, a daylong affair in Washington for nearly a thousand of Hillary’s fund-raisers from 47 states. It’s a mostly white, affluent crowd: lots of Lafayette 148 suits and Delman pumps. During a break before Clinton arrives, the participants mill around outside the ballroom. Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, huddles with lobbyist Liz Robbins. With BlackBerries in one hand and checkbooks in the other, women line up to buy $20 slim-fitting T-shirts that have one word on the front — Hillary — in the candidate’s signature in turquoise.Inside the ballroom, the brain trust is in place. Senior adviser Capricia Marshall, 43, works the room in 3-inch heels and a wide-leg pantsuit. (Stilettos are the vehicles of choice for Team Hillary.) Longtime speechwriter Lissa Muscatine, 53, Hillary’s collaborator on her autobiography, Living History, greets supporters with hugs. Campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, 42, and Ann Lewis, 70, a veteran Democratic operative who heads up the campaign’s outreach to women, are seated onstage with a collection of women the campaign calls validators, people of stature whose opinion can influence others. It’s Lewis’s plan to use these validators to energize women voters, who are more reliably Democratic and who, according to the 2004 census, outnumber registered male voters by nine million. So the campaign has recruited thousands of Hillraisers, who get weekly Hillgrams with talking points that advise them on how to talk to other women. And it’s working, Lewis later tells me. Women are beginning to realize that "This really could be up to us," she says. "We don’t have to choose from these schmucks. We could choose somebody we could really be proud of." Lewis does not hear this from the voters, precisely. "I just sense it," she adds.At the summit, Lewis is the first to jump from her seat and start clapping, hands high over her head. Barbara Mikulski steps forward.

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