If Hillary Clinton decides to run for president, EMILY's List will have her back.
That's the message of the Democratic group's "Madam President" campaign, even if President Stephanie Shriock insisted at an event launching the project that there's a "deep bench" of women who could take the title.
The group is launching a four-year campaign to get a woman in the White House in 2016, starting with a six-figure online ad buy and events in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire.
Pointing to the success of female candidates in 2012, she predicted that the future will be even brighter. "2013 will be the rise of the woman mayor. In 2014, we have women all over the country looking to take over governor's mansions,” Shriock told reporters Thursday morning. “And, well, there’s really only one place to go from there.”
According to polling done for the group by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, 86 percent of voters in battleground states think the country is ready for a woman president, and 72 percent think it's likely our next president will be a woman. Half of those voters say they are more likely to pay attention to a woman candidate. On all issues but two, women candidates are considered as capable or more capable than men -- the exceptions are national security and working with allies around the world, where a small percent of voters think a male president would perform better.
"We do not know if Hillary is going to run," Shriock said, "but we are hopeful that she may. And if she chooses not to, our options are far from exhausted. EMILY's List has a deep bench of strong women candidates."
Shriock named Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former Washington governor Christine Gregoire, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as possible candidates.
Aside from Gillibrand, none of the other women have garnered much if any buzz. But Shriock suggested that it was in part pollsters' fault.
"I'd like to today challenge any national polling organization to start testing some of these other great women," she said. "Because this is a wide open race if Secretary Clinton doesn't decide to do this."
Clinton is the first and only presidential candidate EMILY's List has endorsed -- a decision some supporters saw as a distraction from the group's core mission. There were also questions about its effectiveness in the race. But 2016 looks very different from 2008. The organization has grown from about 100,000 to 2 million members. Clinton is far more popular than she was then. Many polls give her a wide lead over any other Democratic candidate. Back in 2007, she was also seen as the front-runner, but her polling lead was not as huge as it is now.
Supporters of Clinton have also launched a super PAC, Ready for Hillary.
Shriock herself has been mentioned as a possible candidate -- not for president but for retiring Democratic Montana Sen. Max Baucus's seat.
"I have been overwhelmed by the interest in this Senate race," she said, adding that "Montana has a great history of electing women," and the group has been involved there for a long time. "Like you, I'm waiting to see how this all plays out," she said.