It may be the weekend for the “Final Four” in the NCAA basketball championship. But for political junkies out there, the “Sweet Sixteen” already has been whittled down to the two major party candidates in the 2016 presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Marco Rubio.
That is, if you believe the chart concocted by the Washington Post the other day pitting 32 possible candidates among Republicans and Democrats who (in their dreams, at least) have a shot at the White House.
More on that later. But former first lady, US senator, and Secretary of State Clinton seemed to be all over the news this week.
Among the headlines: “Be Afraid, GOP: Hillary Clinton Is Back and She Will Beat You in 2016” (The Daily Beast). “A viewer's guide to Hillary Clinton Fever” (Politico). “James Carville Joins Hillary Clinton Super PAC” (Huffington Post). “Hillary 2016 Supporters Are an Intrepid Bunch” (Slate).
Even the nay-sayers kept Clinton’s name in the news. “Hillary Clinton, a mistake for 2016” (CNN). “Hopefully the Worst Column Anyone Will Write About Hillary Clinton During This Slow News Week” (Slate again).
Financial terms have not been disclosed, the Associated Press reports. Clinton reportedly received $8 million for her 2003 memoir, "Living History," also published by Simon & Schuster. This new book is untitled so far, but it’s scheduled to come out in June 2014 – right in the middle of the midterm elections campaign.
Meanwhile, a “Ready for Hillary” political action committee has formed up.
“It’s a shadow campaign set up at least two years before Clinton will actually decide whether or not to run for president,” reports Slate’s David Wegel. “It’ll raise money, sell merchandise, and build lists until the actual Clinton campaign bursts to life. And then it will change its name to ‘Ready PAC,’ raise money, sell merchandise, and build lists, etc.”
"I’ve always looked at Hillary as a brand," Adam Parkhomenko, the new PAC’s 27-year-old executive director, told Wegel. "That’s been especially true in the last couple of years. It’s a brand I believe in. It’s a brand I want to protect. It’s a brand I want to build."
A source familiar with the group's fundraising plans told CNN that the group has brought on board a national finance director – Matt Felan, the deputy national finance director on Clinton's 2008 presidential bid – and is assembling a team of regional fundraising leaders.
"Few people understand the Clinton donor network better than Matt," the source said. "He is making calls and has received widespread positive response. Checks are starting to come in the door. Money shouldn't be a problem."
Clinton's 2008 campaign raised $220 million from donors, some of whom have already begun pitching in to this effort.
But back to that 2016 bracket competition, put together by WashPost political blogger Chris Cillizza.
“Clinton demolished her competition – winning easily over Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and, finally, Vice President Joe Biden in the Final 4,” Mr. Cillizza speculates.
“Rubio’s path was slightly rockier,” he goes on. “He easily dispatched former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in the first two rounds before running into stiffer competition in the Elite 8 against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. To make it to the final matchup, Rubio had to weather a nip and tuck vote against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. For much of the balloting the race was within a point but Rubio widened it out a bit to claim a 52 percent to 48 percent victory.”
(Rick Santorum is back, but loses in the first round to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Some readers are wondering why Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were not included among the 16 Republican wannabes. Too shop-worn, perhaps?)
Through 5 p.m. Eastern time Sunday, there’s an online election on Cillizza’s mock lineup. Vote here. Of the 2,526 people who’ve weighed in at this writing, Clinton is whipping Rubio 76 percent to 24 percent. Not scientific, of course, but perhaps an indicator of the former secretary of State’s strength in 2016 – if, as her many fans hope, she decides to run.