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Clinton vet says DNC job about 2013, not 2016

By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Political Editor
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Mo Elleithee has played key roles in Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential bid, Wesley Clark's 2004 White House campaign, and Senate victories by Tim Kaine and Mark Warner in Virginia and Tom Udall in New Mexico,
Mo Elleithee has played key roles in Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential bid, Wesley Clark's 2004 White House campaign, and Senate victories by Tim Kaine and Mark Warner in Virginia and Tom Udall in New Mexico,
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mo Elleithee was a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign
  • Elleithee started last week as communications director for Democratic National Committee
  • Veteran strategist says Democrats will hold Senate and pick up seats in House in midterms
  • Asked about a possible job with his old boss if she runs, Elleithee says he's not looking that far ahead

Washington (CNN) -- Mo Elleithee was a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign but he says his new job as communications director for the Democratic National Committee has nothing to do with his former boss' plans for 2016.

"This has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton. I don't know if Hillary Clinton is going to run again. I suspect she doesn't know yet if she's going to run," he said.

Elleithee, a strategist who also played key roles in Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential bid, Wesley Clark's 2004 White House campaign, and Senate victories by Tim Kaine and Mark Warner in Virginia and Tom Udall in New Mexico, is confident the Democrats can hold the Senate and make House and gubernatorial pickups in next year's midterm elections. And he says the DNC's debt won't hinder such efforts.

Since starting on the job Friday, Elleithee has already hit the cable circuit, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" and MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews." On Monday Elleithee talked to CNN about his new job.

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Q: What is the DNC's mission this cycle?

A: Our mission is pretty straightforward. It is to support the president's agenda and it is to support Democratic candidates up and down the ticket in 2013 and 2014. I think we are well positioned to do that. We're doing it on a bunch of different levels, with the communications shop providing communications assistance, but also at the organizing level, helping state parties do the same. So we're just going to be very aggressive on both those fronts and there's a lot of work to do on both those fronts.

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Q: With Organizing For America, which has a strong grassroots outreach program, no longer part of the DNC, is the party committee going to be less of a player when it comes to grassroots outreach?

A: No. I only think you're going to see it step up our grassroots operation, for a couple of reasons. One, there's plenty of grassroots work to go around. But two, you have to remember, OFA is a non-political entity, and so the DNC is still the place to be for political organizing on the Democratic side and I think everybody is committed to seeing that continue to happen.

Q: Let's talk money. It's no secret that the Republican National Committee is having a great year when it comes to fundraising. The RNC doesn't have any debt. The DNC incurred a lot of debt in winning last year's election. When it comes to money are there concerns that you won't have the cash to do what you need to do and how will you retire that debt?

A: A couple of things. One, you're right -- we went into debt to win, we did. The other side is having a good year. They will likely have more money that us this cycle, but remember, they had more money than us last cycle. The Republican Inc., the Republican and affiliated groups drastically outspent Democrats and affiliated groups last time and it didn't work. So it isn't all about the money. But sure, it is an important part of it. We are going to have what we need to accomplish our goals this cycle, but we're still working to retire that debt and Democrats can help us out by going to Democrats.Org and giving what they can.

Q: What are your goals this cycle. Are there specifics you can share?

A: We want to hold on to the Senate. We want to win seats in the House and we want to win governorships. That's the goal. And I think there are a lot of places where we can do that. I think there are going to be a lot of competitive races. There are going to be a lot of competitive races where we can pick up seats, we think. Just looking at governors' races, I think Virginia is a huge opportunity for a Democratic pickup. I think Florida and Ohio are huge opportunities for Democratic pickups. Those are just governors' seats. In the Senate we feel very comfortable that can hold the Senate. And based on what I'm seeing I think we feel comfortable that we can pick up seats in the House. So we're going to do what we can to support, we have some great Democratic campaign committees out there, at the DGA, the DCCC, the DSCC. They are doing the heavy lifting and at the DNC we are going to be helping them out however we can, while really helping to do what we can to help the president's agenda. It's all tied together."

Q: There's speculation, because of your role in Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, that this was part of some grand design to have someone from Hillary World take over communications at the DNC in advance of a possible second Clinton bid for the White House.

A: This has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton. I don't know if Hillary Clinton is going to run again. I suspect she doesn't know yet if she's going to run. But this has nothing to do with whether or not she's going to run. I'm over here because it's a great opportunity to help all Democrats, to help the party, to help the president.

You know, 2016 will come soon enough, but before I came here to the DNC I was among those getting incredibly frustrated by the fact there was so much attention paid to 2016 when we've got a lot of work to do before then. That's why I'm over here. We've got important races in 2013. We've got a lot of important races in 2014. Folks need to start laying the groundwork for 2016 but there's more important stuff to do now electorally as well as helping the president pass his agenda and that's why I'm here."

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Q: After the midterms are over next year, could you see yourself back with Hillary Clinton if she decides to launch another bid for the White House?

A: I wouldn't be doing my job if I was looking much past 2014. Right now that's the goal, is to do what I can to help the party do as well as it can in the midterm elections.

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