“Women are very good at being able to find what they have in common and building from there,” she said. “In my own experience, anytime I’ve been successful in moving legislation, I’ve had the help of a Republican woman.”
Gillibrand launched her political career more than a dozen years ago at similar fundraisers headlined by Clinton and Tipper Gore, who encouraged her to jump into politics. Now she’s eager to do the same for others.
“Most men — I don’t want to say that — many men will say, ‘Of course I can do it.’ It’s the first thing out of their mouths. But a woman will always doubt herself,” she said. “It’s more in our nature to be questioning. Can this be done? Will I make a difference? That’s one of the things you have to address up front — yes, you can do it.”
In conversations before launching her campaign, Demings said, Gillibrand gave her a simple pitch: “If we’re going to help impact the decisions that are made, then we’ve got to have a seat at the table.” Vilsack said she appreciates Gillibrand’s track record: “For me, it’s just been really helpful to have somebody who I believe to be a strong person tell me it’s okay to be a strong woman.”
Duckworth, who lost a congressional bid in 2006, she said she recently attended an Off the Sidelines event in Chicago and watched Gillibrand try to persuade women in the room to run for office: “It’s great if it motivates people for the House and the Senate, but I think the most effective part of it will be if we can motivate women to run for school board or to be a trustee of their village.”
In her own race, aides said, Gillibrand plans to debate Long and to spend millions of dollars on television ads to tout her brief tenure, which includes early support for repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Last week she became the first senator to release all of her tax returns, a subtle slap at Mitt Romney’s decision to release only two years of returns and a move that could score her points with independent voters.
2016 and beyond
If she wins big this year, aides said, they know what might come next: talk of a bigger political future. In 2016, Gillibrand will be 49, much younger than other female Democrats with national ambitions.
But roughly 15 percent of New York voters still have no opinion of her performance, according to Lee Miringoff, a veteran New York pollster and director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Miringoff said Gillibrand “is not yet a major force in New York” — a state that includes Clinton, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a popular governor, Andrew M. Cuomo (D).
Gillibrand did not rule out one day running for higher office, but she said she already has a 2016 scenario in mind.
“I really want Hillary to run in 2016. I think she’d be an extraordinary president, and I’m going to certainly ask her to run,” she said. “And if she does, I will be hopefully one of her major supporters and participants.”