Clinton calls in the heavy hitters

Clinton calls in the heavy hitters
© Greg Nash

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Texas Supreme Court rejects Alex Jones request to toss lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents Paris Agreement: Biden's chance to restore international standing 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 SandersBoycott sham impeachment Sunday shows - Biden agenda, Trump impeachment trial dominate Sanders: Senate may use budget reconciliation to pass Biden agenda 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.


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 ClintonMcConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' The Memo: Biden strives for common ground after Trump turmoil 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 TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 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 ObamaNASA demonstrates why rocket science is still hard with the SLS test Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Extremism in the U.S. military 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 RubioSunday shows - Biden agenda, Trump impeachment trial dominate Rubio: Trump impeachment trial is 'stupid' The Memo: Biden gambles that he can do it all MORE has spent time campaigning in South Carolina with Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyThe Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Sunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears 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.