MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton has launched a sweeping national jobs program — for her presidential campaign.
In the eight weeks since she announced her run for the White House, Clinton's campaign has deployed roughly 100 organizers nationwide and opened 15 offices in early-voting states. That's far more than any other candidate of either party in the 2016 contest.
In Iowa, Clinton now has at least 27 paid organizers — three times as many as any of the roughly dozen Republicans in the race. Her campaign has hired at least one staff member in every state, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories.
She has two regional directors in the reliably Democratic state of California and even put one person on the payroll in Wyoming, a state that has not voted for a Democratic nominee in more than 50 years.
The overwhelming favorite for her party's nomination, Clinton doesn't necessarily need the volunteers now. But her team, worried she will lack the power of a competitive primary to energize the core group of supporters she will need for the general election, has gone on an early hiring spree rare in presidential politics.
"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."
The effort isn't cheap: Senior campaign aides have set a goal of raising $100 million to pay for Clinton's primary campaign.
Her campaign has organized 320 house parties, attracting almost 11,000 people. This weekend, her appearance at an event in Iowa will be streamed to a gathering in every congressional district nationwide. "At this point, it's more about finding people and getting them involved then convincing them to back Clinton," said Scott Hogan, a former gun control activist hired by Clinton's campaign to organize voters in deeply Democratic Minnesota.
At a meeting in Mankato on Tuesday, Hogan wanted to know why his batch of potential volunteers was "ready for Hillary." He 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."
Hogan made the pitch for his boss over Sanders, the independent Vermont senator mounting a longshot challenge for the Democratic nomination.
"This campaign is about you," Hogan told Casey and other Democrats in the small group gathered on a hot night. "It's not about me. It's not about Hillary."
Clinton's campaign staff takes great pains to keep a focus on the primary campaign, despite her crushing advantage. Should the Democratic race somehow become competitive, Minnesota — voting in the first big set of primaries after the first four states — could be decisive.
But if Clinton runs away with the Democratic prize, and if Minnesota votes for the Democratic nominee as it has done since 1972, the supporters Hogan is organizing now will become valuable for raising money, making calls and traveling to neighboring battleground states such as Iowa and Wisconsin.
The staff working in reliably Democratic states will be redeployed to battleground areas at the end of this month. The goal is to leave behind engaged volunteer networks to organize small-dollar fundraisers and make sure Clinton is represented at local events.
Clinton aides said the early investment will pay dividends in the final weeks of the campaign. Data analyzed by President Barack Obama's campaign showed a direct correlation between supporter enthusiasm in the last six weeks before the election and when local operations began in their area, according to former staffers.
"The earlier you start, the larger your volunteer structure will be the last two weeks or last month of the campaign, which is ultimately when that investment pays off," said Mitch Stewart, who oversaw battleground states for Obama's campaigns and advised the pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary.
In Mankato, the gathering was half political strategy session, half team-building retreat.
They each wrote a word that described her candidacy on a Post-it note and stuck it to a handmade poster of her campaign logo. Hogan encouraged them to post their support on social media, directed them to Clinton's website and promised to follow up. The meeting ended with a group photo.
At one table, a group of women had a suggestion for Hogan: Farmfest.
Before the meeting, they hadn't thought seriously about putting together a booth for Clinton at the three-day agricultural trade show in August, a must-attend event for political candidates in this part of the state.
"Next year will be the more important time to be out there," said Lori Sellner, 46, of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. "This is just earlier than we've seen before."
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