Clinton calls in the heavy hitters

Clinton calls in the heavy hitters
© Greg Nash

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump takes aim at media after 'hereby' ordering US businesses out of China Trump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Taylor Swift says Trump is 'gaslighting the American public' MORE is deploying an all-star team of surrogates as she seeks to muscle her way to victory in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

Clinton’s eclectic group of supporters is far larger Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country MORE’s, giving the Democratic presidential front-runner the ability to amplify her campaign message in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses on Feb 1.

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Her surrogate squad includes Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), left-leaning millennial celebrity Lena Dunham of “Girls” fame, pop singer Katy Perry, soccer hero Abby Wambach and diplomatic powerhouse Madeleine Albright, not to mention former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump on his 'chosen one' remark: 'It was sarcasm' Kentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' Democratic governors fizzle in presidential race MORE and first daughter Chelsea Clinton.  

To date, 34 surrogates have stumped for Clinton on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. In Iowa, 28 surrogates have made appearances. 

To this point, the surrogates don’t appear to be giving Clinton a decisive edge, with polls indicating she is in danger of losing the first two Democratic primary contests to Sanders. 

A new poll from CNN/WMUR this week found Sanders with a 27-point lead in New Hampshire. In Iowa, a recent Quinnipiac poll gave Sanders a five-point advantage, while a well-respected poll by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg found Clinton clinging to a two-point lead.  

Sanders has a weaker organizational structure than Clinton, less staff, and comparably few surrogates on the scene despite his popularity among millennials. A poll this week from USA Today/Rock the Vote found Sanders trouncing Clinton with that demographic, 50 percent to 31 percent. 

Still, Sanders has one trendy supporter in rapper Killer Mike, who appeared in a spin room after this week’s Democratic debate in South Carolina. The rapper told a reporter that he became a Sanders surrogate after “smoking a joint and reading [Sanders’s] tweets.”

Officials in the Sanders campaign would not comment on their surrogate operation, but one Democratic strategist questioned how much he needs them. 

“He’s so clear on what he’s running on. People get the message,” the strategist said.

Another Democratic strategist who has worked on several presidential campaigns offered a different take, arguing it is “political malpractice that the Sanders campaign hasn’t sought out and deployed surrogates.” 

“It means they’re leaving points on the board,” the strategist said. 

For Clinton, both Dunham and Perry are seen as surrogates who could bring out the millennial vote, particularly among women.

One Democratic strategist who is in touch with the Clinton campaign said surrogates are helpful in helping to “bring in eyeballs” and “echo a rallying point.”

In a tight race, surrogates who can draw crowds and stir enthusiasm for a candidate could be the difference between victory and defeat, especially if they bring in new supporters.  

In the 2016 election cycle, however, candidates are winning attention through social media. GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE has also shown that he can win audiences simply by feeding a steady source of stories to the news media. 

Some strategists say the whole notion of surrogates is overrated. 

“Nobody pays attention to the surrogates,” says Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, adding that “nobody cares” about them. 

While Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement and presence on the campaign trail boosted Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump on his 'chosen one' remark: 'It was sarcasm' Kentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' Biden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated MORE in 2008, she is the exception, he said.

“People want to see the candidate. People in What Cheer, Iowa, don’t wanna see Madeleine Albright.”

Surrogates can sometimes bring unwanted headlines for a campaign, as Chelsea Clinton did earlier this month when she went on the attack against Sanders.

Still, that hasn’t stopped campaigns from trotting them out.

Just this week, Trump made a play for Iowa by winning the endorsement of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who appeared with him in Iowa and Oklahoma.  

GOP candidate Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE has spent time campaigning in South Carolina with Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi. 

Clinton campaign officials say their surrogates have been effective in engaging thousands of supporters collectively. They’ve also been working with volunteers, organizing in the early states and amplifying Clinton’s message. 

Booker, for instance, will appear at five organizing events across Iowa this weekend and another event — alongside Clinton — geared at turning out the caucus vote. A source with knowledge of Booker’s efforts said the New Jersey senator is an important surrogate particularly because of his popularity on social media.

Clinton also perhaps has the most powerful surrogate in either party: Bill Clinton, who proved to be a strong advocate for President Obama’s reelection bid in 2012.