Three years before the vote, Clinton machine gears up

WASHINGTON - With the news that America's largest liberal fundraising group is to back a Hillary Clinton presidential bid in 2016, a growing sense of inevitability is building around her prospective candidacy.

The former secretary of state who once occupied the White House as first lady and narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2008, has been coy about whether she plans to run again.

But she has said that she will decide this year and, with a full 24 months before even the first party primaries, the "draft Clinton" movement is not waiting for its heroine to formally announce.

She swamps other potential Democratic contenders in the polls, including Vice President Joe Biden, another 2008 Democratic challenger defeated by Barack Obama's victorious campaign.

Meanwhile, the man once seen as her most dangerous Republican challenger, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is battling a murky political dirty tricks scandal in his home state.

Clinton is scheduled to give three speeches in April before business groups in reliably Democratic California, further fueling speculation that the 66-year-old veteran is nurturing a candidacy.

Priorities USA Action, a non-profit political group which brought in US$78 million (S$99 million) for Obama's re-election campaign in 2012, confirmed Thursday it plans to raise money for Clinton from rich Democrats.

The group named 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, a veteran political operator with deep ties to wealthy donors, as its co-chair, essentially ensuring the most high-profile Democratic push of the coming election cycle.

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