Here's a scoop. Soon after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) makes a 2008 presidential run official, she will win the endorsement of the nation's largest political action committee.
"We are going to be there early on," Ellen Malcolm, the president of Emily's List told me. The backing from Emily's List, while not a surprise, gives Clinton, who already has a muscular organization in place, an institutional running start over chief rivals Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).
Obama is building a national infrastructure almost from scratch. Edwards is organized but faces big pressure to raise millions of dollars early on to stay in the money game competing with Obama and Clinton.
Clinton and Obama are top Democratic fund-raisers. Clinton also has the best surrogate in the nation when it comes to collecting campaign cash, former President Bill Clinton. Edwards may struggle to land elite donors and fund-raisers who can bundle up money for a candidate by collecting it from others. And when it comes to bundling, no one does it better than Emily's List.
Founded in 1985, Emily's List is a network of donors and activists who back viable -- not marginal -- female candidates who support abortion rights. It's name is an acronym for its motto: "Early money is like yeast, it makes the dough rise." Emily's List raised about $46 million for candidates in the 2006 contests and it's listed as the biggest PAC in the nation by Political Money Line, an independent source of information about campaign fund-raising.
With its financial muscle, Emily's List is a power player -- one of the four legs within the organized Democratic money-raising community, along with labor, trial lawyers and MoveOn.org.
"Most of the groups, because they have lobbying agendas, are not going to be in for awhile," Malcolm said.
Emily's List can tap its donor list to raise money directly for Clinton and solicit funds for its own efforts on her behalf. A senior Clinton advisor, Judith Lichtman, is Emily's List treasurer. The organization can in effect work as a parallel silo to Clinton's White House campaign.
"When she gets in the race, there are going to be millions of women excited about electing the first female president," Malcolm said. There are all kinds of ways Malcolm and company can be helpful through their independent operational efforts, research and training campaign workers. It's a brand that sends a big political signal to progressive women.
A Clinton endorsement will have to be approved by the Emily's List board, but that's not expected to be a problem since Clinton fits all the criteria.
Obama 2008 staffing
One Emily's List board member is Steve Hildebrand, the South Dakota Democratic strategist, field organizer and Iowa hand who is lined up to play a key role in Obama's presidential campaign as the personnel pieces are coming together.
A likely pick to be the Obama campaign manager is David Plouffe. Plouffe is a partner in the firm founded by Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, AKP Media, based in Chicago.
Plouffe runs the Washington AKP office and is a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Two other people are on deck for Obama 2008, Devorah Adler, the Democratic National Committee research director, and Shauna Daly, its deputy director. They are positioned to take on similar roles in the Obama camp.
Obama's announcement seems to be coming later rather than sooner, but still roughly within the January time frame -- give or take some.
"He is trying to wade through the personal and family side," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told me. "That's where he has been for awhile."
Despite DNC efforts, the 2008 primary is becoming increasingly front-loaded. The primary season can well be compressed into several weeks and yield a candidate by February, 2008.
Wednesday's move by Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago), the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, to try to move the March Illinois primary to Feb. 5 will hurt Edwards the most. The Chicago media market is expensive and, in Illinois, Obama and Clinton will leave no oxygen for Edwards if he comes out of the January primary season -- Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- with no victories.
Obama has almost the whole loaf of the Illinois Democratic political establishment and Clinton is well positioned to take a few slices for herself. Despite Obama's enormous Illinois edge, Clinton, raised in Park Ridge, has cadres of Illinois loyalists, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel's brother, Ari, is an Obama backer and will be holding a fund-raiser for him in February in Los Angeles.