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Clinton widens her circle

Getty Images

By Amie Parnes

(The Hill)…Hillary Clinton is widenening her circle for her second White House bid, adding key staffers more associated with other Democratic heavyweights to her tight-knit camp.

The new additions to Team Hillary suggest she is casting a wider net for help, and has become more open to relying on officials associated with President Obama who haven’t been members of Clinton Inc.

Those joining Team Hillary includes former staffers from her East Wing days in the White House — including Karen Finney and Clinton West Winger Jennifer Palmieri,who announced this week that she’s leaving the White House as Obama’s communications director to join Team Hillary.

They also reportedly include Teddy Goff, who ran the president’s digital operation and Andrew Bleeker, who handled online advertising. Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina has already committed to supporting her candidacy through Priorities USA, the superPAC.“We want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States,” Messina said in an interview with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow earlier this week. “It’s her turn. I think it’s her time.

And she has brought on Jim Margolis, who served as a senior adviser to Obama in both presidential elections along with Joel Benenson, who was Obama’s chief strategist and pollster.

Other political operatives, notably Brian Fallon, a longtime aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have also entered Hillaryland.

The changes are drawing praise from longtime Democratic operatives.

“I’m encouraged by it,” said Jim Manley, the Democratic strategist. “I think it signifies that she’s figuring out that she needs a different structure going forward. It seems like she’s internalized some of what happened in 2008 and they’re looking at a different approach.”

One Clinton ally added: “It seems like she’s taking more of a hands on approach and figuring out who’d be best for each job.”

Clinton has been criticized time and again for relying on the same key group of people, particularly during her 2008 presidential campaign. Back then, many of her advisers, loyal to the core, had been with her since her days as first lady and senator.  Some felt she was limiting herself by not bringing in fresh faces.

After losing the Democratic primary in 2008 to Obama, she began to change that approach.

She started to rely not just on her own people but career types and even a couple of Obama people like Alec Ross, who ended up serving as Clinton’s senior adviser for innovation at the State Department.

Clinton elevated people who impressed her, including Jake Sullivan, who served on her 2008 campaign but was a relative newcomer to Clinton’s inner circle.

Some allies say she has applied that approach to a greater extent during this upcoming campaign. Those close to Clinton say she’s not in any rush to announce a candidacy and is taking her time to choose the right staff and nail the right tone and message.

But others say the final structure of a Clinton campaign is in question.

“I think a lot still needs to play out,” one staunch Clinton ally said. “She needs to be clear on what he organization looks like, the chain of command, who reports to who, and what responsibilities each individual has. A lot of that was missing in the last campaign.”

“And almost more than anything, is there a collaboration among the staff?” the ally added. “Because in 2008 that just didn’t exist.”

Other Clinton supporters are unimpressed by the lineup so far, saying it is anything but out of the ordinary.

“It’s not thinking outside the box, it’s essentially using the same class of political operatives,” said the supporter who worked on the 2008 campaign. “Why is there not one new face from Austin, Texas or one person who hails from Silicon Valley?”

“It’s tired and predictable,” the supporter said.

One thing is clear, however. With so many Obama staffers joining her operation, Clinton cannot run from the president’s policies.

“I just don’t expect her to spend a lot of time running away from his agenda,” Manley said.

Republican operatives agree.

“What’s noteworthy is Secretary Clinton is bring on top level Obama policy hands—not just political hacks,” said Tim Miller, the executive director of America Rising, the superPAC that is targeting Clinton. “Any thought that she will able to distance herself from him effectively is completely wrong.”

And as Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee added, “Resets are not Hillary’s strong suit.”

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