Now open: The Hillary Clinton (campaign?) store

ARLINGTON, Va. _ In a concrete high-rise across the river from the nation's capital, the Hillary Clinton store is open for business.

There are aluminum ornaments _ each adorned with a giant H _ for Christmas, champagne flutes engraved with 2016 for New Year's Eve and long-sleeved I love Hillary T-shirts with red hearts for Valentine's Day, naturally.
And every day, there are iPhone covers, tote bags, lanyards, even Born Ready for Hillary onesies for the youngest family member. Dog leashes are coming soon.

Ready for Hillary, the political action committee that hopes to lay the groundwork for a second presidential run, already has hawked 25,000 pieces of campaignlike paraphernalia _ three years before Election Day _ for someone who may not even run.

Kiki McLean, a senior adviser to Clinton's campaign in 2008 who works for a Washington public relations firm, said the latest generation involved in politics had shown that it wouldn't wait to be invited to participate. "People are channeling their energy and enthusiasm," she said.
The so-called Hillary store is tucked on the fifth floor of the group's offices. White shelves filled with products line the walls, while dozens of shipments ready to be transported to the nearby post office sit on a table.

Occasionally, a customer will wander in to try on a shirt or make an exchange, but most purchases are made online.

It's a little like Amazon, except shipping is always free and, of course, every product promotes Clinton.
Dick Harpootlian, a longtime Democratic activist in South Carolina who's an ardent supporter of another potential candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, dismissed Ready for Hillary's efforts, arguing that it's way too early for organizations such as this, when Clinton hasn't even decided to run. "Maybe a fan club is appropriate for a boy band but not candidate for president of the United States," he mocked.

Clinton, 66, says she hasn't made up her mind about running and expects to decide later this year. But the former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state is already the presumed front-runner for her party's nomination in 2016, dominating the potential field of candidates by huge margins.

Former Clinton advisers formed Ready for Hillary last year _ just after she stepped down as the nation's top diplomat _ as a way to recruit volunteers from across the nation for a potential campaign. The group claims to have nearly 2 million supporters lined up.

Ready for Hillary set up the store after witnessing the success of Barack Obama, who was then a rival for the Democratic nomination and the first national candidate to sell merchandise as a way to lure low-dollar donors and attract supporters. The group consulted those who ran the Obama store in 2008.

"There are a lot of great lessons that came out of 2008 and 2012," said Adam Parkhomenko, a former Clinton campaign staffer who's the executive director of Ready for Hillary.

Candidates have long handed out bumper stickers and buttons to supporters at rallies to try to create enthusiasm and promote their campaigns. In more recent years, businesses got into the act and began selling knickknacks with candidates' logos as money-making ventures.

In 2008, Obama's campaign upended the system, selling its own merchandise as a way to build passion, raise money and recruit volunteers.

"It was a total turnaround," said Peter Fenn, a professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management who owns a Democratic political firm.

 

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