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200 gather in Tampa to urge Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016

Hillary Rodham Clinton lost in the 2008 primaries.

Hillary Rodham Clinton lost in the 2008 primaries.

TAMPA — What would possess a lifelong Republican like Bonnie McCreadie to show up at a campaign organizing session for a candidate who might not even run — Hillary Rodham Clinton?

"Because she's a woman," said McCreadie. "I am 71 years old, and I have never had an opportunity to vote for a woman" for president.

And why would Nancy Simmons, 75, drive from Winter Haven to talk about a possible candidacy for a race still two election cycles away?

"Because I want a woman in the White House before I die," Simmons declared, confessing that she sorely hopes Republicans nominate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as their nominee in 2016.

These were among 200 people who packed into a Mise en Place meeting room in South Tampa on Tuesday night to join a grass roots campaign that is urging the former secretary of state to run for president in 2016.

"It's hard to say no to 5 million people, and that's what this is about, getting 5 million people to say (to Clinton), 'We're ready for you. Are you ready for us?' '' said Craig Smith, a longtime political adviser to former President Bill Clinton, now helping lead a so-called "super PAC" called Ready for Hillary.

Recalling "the slow train wreck" that was Hillary Clinton's top-down presidential campaign of 2008, Smith said the committee's goal this time is to ensure that a grass roots organization is ready to kick into gear when and if Clinton decides to run again.

"I don't know about you guys, but I am ready," gushed former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman, who put together one of the first Bill Clinton campaign events in 1991 and helped organize Tuesday's meeting.

While super PACS tend to be known for pulling in multimillion-dollar donations to air attack ads on TV, Ready for Hillary is capping contributions at $25,000, and mostly concentrating on small donations and social media activity.

Clinton, 65, narrowly lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008. She has not said whether she will run again in 2016, but her recent public appearances and speeches on topics including health care and voting rights have fueled the perception that another campaign is inevitable.

Certainly Tuesday at Mise en Place, people talked as if it were inevitable — and as if other Democratic prospects like Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer were mere distractions.

"One of the reasons I like Hillary is because she's not naive. She knows the deal and how far Republicans will go," said Tampa nurse Lisa Ferris, who had supported Clinton over Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008. "It's been shown that Barack Obama was naive in so many ways, trying to promote bipartisanship and not realizing the lengths Republicans would go to block him."

Jacques Despinosse, sported a "Hillary 2016" T-shirt along with several other friends who drove from Miami to hear the presentation. "I just believe in her," he said. "She has the experience, she has the know-how, and she has the heart."

Former Mayor Freedman reminded the crowd that they can't let their excitement for Clinton in 2016 overshadow the importance of 2014, when Gov. Rick Scott is up for re-election.

"If we get rid of Rick Scott and we elect a Democrat as governor, that Democrat is going to be right on the bandwagon for whoever our nominee is — named Hillary Clinton," Freedman said to cheers.

Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

200 gather in Tampa to urge Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016 10/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:19pm]
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