In the aftermath of Tuesday’s crushing defeats, the Democratic donor class is already turning its attention to the 2016 presidential contest and ramping up what is expected to be a massive outside flanking operation to back an expected White House bid by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The work started first thing Wednesday morning, when Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg’s team began making calls to secure donations for Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that will serve as the big-money advertising vehicle for Clinton.
Andy Spahn, a political strategist who advises Katzenberg and other clients, said that he has started reviewing donor lists and calling wealthy Democratic backers to get their commitments. He and the DreamWorks Animation chief plan to travel around the country to meet with potential contributors in person.
“We will reaching out in the weeks ahead to set up one-on-ones and meet-and-greets to talk about the urgency of the task ahead,” Spahn told The Washington Post.
“Priorities will start today," he added.
Along with Katzenberg and Spahn, a slew of other Priorities USA officials are beginning the early donor outreach, including board co-chair and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, executive director Buffy Wicks and senior advisers Sean Sweeney and Paul Begala.
As part of their pitch, Priorities officials plan to walk through the impact the group had in 2012, when the super PAC supported President Obama's reelection and played a key role in shaping early perceptions of GOP challenger Mitt Romney. The message: it will be essential in 2016 to have ample resources available early in the cycle.
The super PAC will not begin collecting contributions unless and until Clinton announces her candidacy.
"Priorities USA Action officials will be engaging supporters over the next few months to discuss the critical role we played in helping reelect a Democratic president in 2012 and to begin building for the 2016 cycle," said Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for the super PAC.
The group’s rapid kick-off illustrates how Democrats have come to embrace independent groups such as super PACs -- a turn-about from the disdain many had for such vehicles during the last two elections. This year, one of the top-spending groups was Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC run by top advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which poured more than $60 million into trying to protect Democratic incumbents.
Despite Tuesday’s losses, Spahn said he does not believe Democratic patrons will be reluctant to give to Priorities.
“I think our donors will double down,” he said, adding that they will be driven not only by the presidential contest, but “by the ambition to retake the Senate.”
Katzenberg, in particular, is intensely focused on using the super PAC to bolster Clinton. After 2012, he drove the effort to refashion Priorities into the premiere pro-Clinton vehicle for 2016.
The group now has a board stocked with powerful party figures, co-chaired by Granholm and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
Priorities USA, which was largely dormant during 2014, is part of a constellation of independent groups already working to support her bid. The super PAC Ready for Hillary spent the last two years mobilizing a grassroots network of activists on her behalf, while the opposition research group American Bridge has developed a team focused on rapid response on her behalf.