Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton and her close circle of advisers, including many former campaign aides to President Barack Obama, are coalescing around a plan to start her campaign in the spring after they considered delaying her launch until summer, according to multiple Democrats familiar with internal deliberations.
Clinton to announce sooner rather than later as GOP takes aim at her family's foundation
1 of 43
2 of 43
3 of 43
4 of 43
5 of 43
6 of 43
7 of 43
8 of 43
9 of 43
10 of 43
11 of 43
12 of 43
13 of 43
14 of 43
15 of 43
16 of 43
17 of 43
18 of 43
19 of 43
20 of 43
21 of 43
22 of 43
23 of 43
24 of 43
25 of 43
26 of 43
27 of 43
28 of 43
29 of 43
30 of 43
31 of 43
32 of 43
33 of 43
34 of 43
35 of 43
36 of 43
37 of 43
38 of 43
39 of 43
40 of 43
41 of 43
42 of 43
43 of 43
The shift in timing comes as Republicans hammer Hillary Clinton for the financial practices of her family's global charity and prospective donors shy away from donating money to the Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing her run.
The campaign is also expected to launch in April in part because Clinton's team has come together more quickly than expected, another source familiar with internal deliberations said.
Several people have been hired by representatives of Hillary Clinton to work on a presidential campaign, a source familiar with the hirings confirmed to CNN. These people have their told their current employers they are leaving and are expected to start in their new positions in the late March-early April time frame, the source said.
The time line has been a key discussion among supporters for awhile. In December, Clinton and her advisers planned an April announcement. But this winter some longtime Clinton confidantes who favored waiting to begin the full-fledged campaign in the summer appeared to be gaining momentum in their push to delay, multiple sources told CNN. They argued for a formal declaration to come in July, coinciding with the third fundraising quarter of the year, and for her to just signal in April that she would run, perhaps by launching an exploratory committee.
Many within Clinton's camp advocated she stay out of the political fray to protect her high poll numbers as the broad Republican field sling arrows at each other.
Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a parade of potential Republican presidential candidates showed they plan to multi-task, collectively taking aim at Hillary Clinton even as they verbally cannibalized each other in the early fight for the GOP nomination.
Fox News host Sean Hannity asked Republican establishment pick Jeb Bush to play a word association game in front of a packed ballroom at CPAC on Friday.
"Hillary Clinton," Hannity said.
"Foreign fundraising," Bush responded.
He was one of many possible candidates to seize on recent reports that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has accepted millions of dollars in donations from foreign countries with poor records on human and women's rights since Clinton left her role as Secretary of State.
The Washington Post uncovered donations from seven foreign nations while Clinton was still at the helm of the State Department, violating terms she had agreed to with the Obama administration for the tenure of her service.
"We could have had Hillary here," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told the audience at CPAC on Thursday, "but we couldn't find a foreign nation to foot the bill."
Former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina was Clinton's most vocal critic. She urged the former secretary of state to "explain why we should accept that the millions and millions of dollars that have flowed into the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments do not represent a conflict of interest."
Though many foundation donors are expected to also donate to Clinton's likely campaign, so far analysis by multiple news outlets of the public database of the organizations donations has revealed no quid pro quo between Hillary Clinton and the nations and individuals donating to the Clinton charity.
But Monday morning, Clinton's spokesman Nick Merrill took the rare step of sending her supporters talking points defending the foundation. The move reflects concerns among Clinton and those closest to her that Republicans will brand the family initiative as a self-aggrandizing platform rather than an international charity that is a political asset to her candidacy.
The document, titled "BHCCF (Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation) Top-Line Talking Points", obtained by CNN, told potential Clinton surrogates to stress that "The Clinton Foundation is a philanthropy, period," and that "It's a false choice to suggest people can't support political causes or candidates and also care about philanthropy and making a difference in the world."
The memo emphasized the foundation's transparency, such as its practice of disclosing contributors identities on the foundation website. It outlined how the organization "has improved the lives of millions across the globe," specifically mentioning work to provide affordable HIV/AIDS medication, clean water and economic opportunities in developing nations, in addition to healthy foods for children in the United States.
"[Clinton and her advisers] understand that's a potential soft spot, the focus on foreigners buying elections," one Democratic operative told CNN. "It's easier for the right-wing noise machine to pick it up. It may make the average man or woman to do a double take."
Clinton's office distributed the talking points just hours after The Wall Street Journal first reported that "Hillary Clinton and her close advisers are telling Democratic donors she will enter the presidential race sooner than expected, likely in April, a move that would allay uncertainties within her party and allow her to rev up fundraising."
Clinton donors have been reticent to contribute to Priorities USA Action, the main big donor super PAC backing her anticipated candidacy.
"They won't write checks on speculation," said one Democratic operative, and many donors would rather donate to her campaign than an outside group.
"There is fundraising pressure so [Clinton and her inner circle] are moving more quickly," said one source with knowledge of their conversations.
Some of that pressure, the source said, has been created by the likely candidacy of Jeb Bush, who has major support from Republican donors.
Bush has been raising money for a likely presidential run at an impressive clip, with some events reportedly bringing in more than $4 million. He launched his Right to Rise PAC in early January and has since been traveling the country picking up checks for his expected campaign.
There is no concern that Clinton will struggle with fundraising once she declares her candidacy or launched some sort of official campaign body. The Clintons have long been prodigious fundraisers and a cadre of top Democratic money men have already lined up behind the frontrunner.
Still, some Clinton aides, according to one Democrat familiar with internal deliberations, have expressed concern that waiting to launch a campaign in full until summer will have her playing catch up to a number of Republican candidates. Clinton lent her 2008 campaign more than $13 million of her own money and finally paid off her $12 million debt to hundreds of creditors in 2013, a situation that made her very uncomfortable, according to multiple sources.