“Ready for Hillary” peeps usually go for big donors. But they hosted a rare fundraiser last night where you didn’t have to be a Wall Street banker to attend, with a moderate turn out of about 70 Hillaryites. People came out in the rain, despite a (predictable) breakdown of DC’s government transportation system, Metro.
Metro breaks down daily now, but last night’s rush hour breakdown was at the K Street Farragut West stop that carries lawyers and lobbyists from DC to their homes in posh northern Virginia.
My bar mate before the speechifying started was a 30-something yuppie waiting for his wife – a newbie lawyer who had started her career at Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau – to arrive. The crowd of mainly white 30-something lawyers had been enticed with a low $20 entry ticket, because Hillary Clinton needs as many signatures on a primary ballot access petition as she can get.
Virginia has one of the country’s most difficult ballot access laws – you need 10,000 registered voters to sign to be allowed on the ballot. In 2012 only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul managed to make it into the Virginia GOP primary, while others, including Virginia resident Newt Gingrich, gave up. As Hillary’s crowds shrink below those of Senator Bernie Sanders, it would be a major embarrassment if he turns in enough signatures and she doesn’t, though this is unlikely since Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Clinton Inc.
It’s been a week in D.C. of lower-priced fundraisers from shorter candidates. Monday, openly gay Maryland Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Chrys Kefalas hosted a $30 fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, catered by his Greek immigrant family’s Baltimore area restaurant.
Tonight Senator Rand Paul hosts a $35 happy hour at DC’s downtown Microsoft lobbying offices, also with free food and drink. Hillary, whose reported height in her official bios has been fluctuating as much as her story about what she’s hiding with her private emails and server, let supporters in for $20, but then made them buy their own beer and food from Arlington’s Rooftop Bar and Grill.
A young woman who organized the event spoke at such length the crowd started to ignore her. While we were paying attention, she banged on with a long list of arguments for Hillary ranging from her being a woman to Mrs. Clinton’s having made herself available for 12 major media interviews in the past 28 days, including with Ellen, Lena Dunham, and Jimmy Fallon.
Finally she introduced the guest speaker standing in for Hillary, her strategic media advisor, Jim Margolis, introduced as the man who got her 3.7 million Twitter followers.
Though he has the cartoony look of a character actor, he’s smooth, can perform as personable and funny. If Hillary had been there she would have looked wooden – and very short – beside him. And though his remarks had some candor – he told the crowd he’d worked on Obama’s 2008 (and 2012) campaign, where he’d beaten Hillary (“but I’m on her team now!”), he followed the dishonest campaign talking point of saying Hillary regretted her mistake of not having two email accounts, and evaded the issue of having a private server stashed in a closet.
Margolis took five questions from the crowd, and they were revealing.
The first three questions were all from men, which he actually remarked on and said he wouldn’t do, but then did. And the first one was how could Hillary reach out to male voters? The male supporter speculated that she should put out positions papers on prostate cancer or boys doing badly in public schools. Margolis answered that they are now experts in micro-targeting, and could identify exactly when male voters open to Hillary would be watching Gomer Pyle reruns on which cable channels at what time in the wee hours of the morning.
Question 2, from a plump, fey, Indian gentleman, who stood up and gave a long and impassioned speech, was a window into the mind of an embattled Hillary supporter. He said he spent all day every day reading reply columns in social media, and it was clear to him that in the wake of Citizens United an army of over a million paid on-line trolls are the people continually charging Mrs. Clinton with being a “criminal liar” and keeping the private server story alive. He added that many Bernie Sanders supporters, especially on line, were paid actors and sock puppets. Margolis didn’t disagree with this notion of a Koch brothers funded right wing conspiracy, but did point out that every month through at least January the State Department would be releasing another batch of Hillary emails.
A third question was how Hillary could win in states like Arkansas that have switched from Democrat to Republican governors. A fourth, female supporter, wanted to know again how to fight back against the email story. Margolis assured the crowd that Hillary would win Iowa and New Hampshire, with 70 paid staffers in the former and 40 in the latter, organizing thousands of volunteers.
Finally, the last question, from one of the few African American women there (at an event just two subway stops outside Washington, D.C., which is 50 percent African American), was how Hillary could “earn our country respect again, after those awful Bush years.” She didn’t mention Obama. Which is probably just as well since even while she was asking Vladimir Putin was preparing to tell Barack Obama he could just stay out of the Middle East, after having spent the day with him at the United Nations.
Not knowing Putin was about to publicly embarrass President Obama, and with no plan for how to spin that to Hillary’s advantage, Margolis did what he did with most of the anxious questioners. He listened, he seemed to agree, he consoled. He was longer on encouragement than he was on actual answers.