Hillary Clinton Waits ... And Waits ... And Waits

WASHINGTON -- The continued volatility of the Republican presidential field, and the sheer tameness of the Democratic one, have convinced prominent backers and donors for Hillary Clinton that she should take her time before announcing her candidacy.

In late January, Politico reported that Clinton was thinking of delaying the launch of her campaign from April until July. The move reflected both a lack of a sense of urgency to enter the race and a worry that jumping into the electoral fray might sully Clinton's standing with the public. The idea was received coolly in the press, which noted that staying away from the campaign trail is an odd strategy for winning a campaign.

For those cheering Clinton on, however, the downsides appear incredibly limited. They counter that the media's criticism is mainly a product of its self-interest, which would be served by Clinton announcing a presidential bid.

"She is in the catbird seat," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Huffington Post in an interview last week. "If she wants time to figure out her strategy, figure out her issues, figure out who her inner staff should be, she is in no hurry. There is no hurry that she has to announce."

A spokesperson for the former secretary of state declined to comment on the timing of a possible presidential run. However, HuffPost spoke with several donors who said they suspect there is no rush on her part, based on the fairly informal outreach they've received to this point (as opposed to harder pitches to get involved). One high-profile donor said last week that while he was previously convinced that Clinton would announce in early February, he now is getting "a completely different vibe" -- though he noted he didn't get this impression directly from conversations with the Clintons themselves.

In the time between that discussion and the publication of this story, the pros and cons of a delayed announcement have become clearer. As far as advantages go, the Democrats most likely to challenge Clinton in the primary have neither hit the ground running (former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's next scheduled Iowa stop, for instance, is in April) nor shown particularly sharp fangs. Even those who seem most committed to the race don't appear especially interested in attacking Clinton too hard.

Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told MSNBC this week that a matchup between him and Clinton would be "a real clash of ideas." But the clash won't involve negative advertising, should it get to that point. Sanders, according to his longtime adviser Tad Devine, has never run those type of spots and has no plans to do so in the future.

"He never has and he won’t," Devine told HuffPost this week. "As the guy who made his ads, I know.”

But even as Clinton remains relatively inoculated from attacks from outside her universe, internally, things aren't going so smoothly. This week, a spat between leading operatives running pro-Clinton political action committees spilled out into the open, resulting in an acrimonious split and an awkward reconciliation. Of course, that type of drama -- which comes with having a network of big-name advisers and fundraisers built over several decades -- is likely to happen to Clinton whether or not she's a declared candidate. And certainly, the case could be made that she's best served by not being too close to that type of political muck.

Still, this week's events indicate that the internal squabbling and Clinton's longer-than-expected timeframe are hurting the outside financial infrastructure that was supposed to be in place by the time she announced. And with conservative outside groups flexing their financial muscle -- the billionaire Koch brothers have announced that they plan to spend $889 million in the 2016 election -- some Democrats are openly nervous.

"It is frightening for two people to have such disproportionate influence," Schumer said. His concerns would be lessened, he added, if the Kochs were more willing to funnel money to their legislative causes than to their favored political party. The senator said that he had reached out to the billionaire brothers during the Senate fight over immigration, hoping to convince them to spend money to support the bill. But the Kochs balked, even though they are nominally supportive of immigration reform. "Ninety percent of their ads don't talk about their philosophy," Schumer said. "So this idea that they believe in the free market and reducing regulations, they don't talk about that in their ads!"

In the end, while money may be a problem in 2016 for Democrats in general, it won't be an issue for Clinton specifically. One longtime Clinton donor, Dennis Mehiel, told HuffPost last week that he wasn't worried about Clinton raising funds, or for that matter, getting into the race later in the process. He argued that the dynamics were different in the Democratic field than in the much more crowded Republican one, making it more plausible to wait on Clinton.

"You have this big donors base out there that [Mitt] Romney built," Mehiel said. "If he isn’t in the race, there is a scramble for those people. Jeb Bush can’t wait months because people will get claimed."

"I’m not sure the donor base for the Clintons is going anywhere until they hear from Hillary," he added. "If she wants to announce in July instead of February, it doesn’t change my calculus."

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Hillary Clinton