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Kirsten Gillibrand laying tracks for 2020 presidential run

Hired former DCCC chief spokeswoman, planning NY campaign HQ and heading to Iowa

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York shows all the signs of someone who is about to announce a presidential run. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York shows all the signs of someone who is about to announce a presidential run. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has begun laying most of the groundwork for a 2020 presidential campaign — virtually all she has left to do now is announce she’s jumping into the race.

The New York Democrat has recruited former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief spokeswoman Meredith Kelly to head the communications staff for her prospective campaign and a handful of other seasoned Democratic operatives for senior staff positions, The New York Times reported Friday.

Gillibrand is headed to Iowa next weekend for a visit with voters and prospective on-the-ground staffers in the first state to hold presidential caucuses or a primary, Politico reported Thursday.

And also on Thursday, The Associated Press reported that Gillibrand’s team has elevated Troy, New York, a small city along the Hudson River where her family has roots, to the top of the list for where to base its campaign headquarters.

Watch: Roll Call Looks Ahead to 2020

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Gillibrand’s recent spate of reported hires — Kelly as communications director, former California Gov. Gavin Newsom aide Emmy Bengtson as her deputy overseeing digital operations, and former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee political director Dan McNally to direct the campaign — underscores the operational and inner-party clout the New York senator has amassed since joining the Senate since 2009.

The reports trickling out about Gillibrand’s prospective 2020 campaign followed reports late Wednesday that Sen. Kamala Harris of California is finalizing plans to announce her bid for president around Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, possibly on the memorial holiday, in Oakland, California. Harris replied “I might” Thursday night on CBS’ “The Late Show” when host Stephen Colbert asked if she was running.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a longtime avatar for the more progressive, pro-labor wing of the Democratic party, has formed an exploratory committee for a 2020 run.

Three Democrats, including former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, have already declared they are running for the party’s nomination to face President Donald Trump in 2020.

Former Vice President Joe Biden tops most polls of potential Democratic candidates. He has said he will decide on whether he’s running in the coming months.

Dozens of other lawmakers and Democratic Party advocates are expected to jump into the race in what could be a historically large swell of candidates.

Gillibrand has considerable ground to make up over the next year, according to early polls. One percent of Democrats in a CNN poll last month said they would support her for the 2020 nomination.

And in Iowa, the state with the first party caucuses in each presidential primary cycle, Gillibrand would start from the back.

In the first CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of the cycle of likely Iowa caucus-goers last month, Gillibrand had support from 1 percent of those surveyed. But 48 percent of those polled said they would consider voting for Gillibrand if their first choice did not run.

Polls this far out from the first primaries and caucuses should not be given much weight in determining who will actually win a party nomination, as they are often volatile and poorly predictive. In the 2008 Democratic primary race, Hillary Clinton led eventual nominee Barack Obama in national polls for much of the year leading up to the Iowa caucuses. When Obama won in Iowa, it was widely considered an upset.

Gillibrand would likely have a fundraising edge over most early Democratic contenders, drawing from a wealthy New York donor base. She had more than $10 million leftover in her campaign committee coffers after winning re-election to her Senate seat in November.

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