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With Hillary Clinton In, Progressives Ramp Up Pressure

Now that Hillary Clinton is officially in the presidential race, progressive groups vow to carry on, working to push her to adopt a progressive message.
/ Source: NBC News

Now that Hillary Clinton is officially in the presidential race, liberal groups are vowing to keep pushing Clinton to adopt a more progressive message.

Shortly after her video announcement, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee released its own video using Clinton's own words: "I'm not just beginning a campaign though, I'm beginning a conversation. So let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine."

The video goes on to call on Clinton to adopt a "bold" campaign platform adopting progressive, populist ideas.

Clinton’s official candidacy has done little to deter populist progressives, especially those who have been working to persuade Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to join the race. Instead, these activists say they see Clinton's candidacy as a critical moment in the 2016 presidential contest.

“Ready for Warren will be stepping up our efforts to convince Warren to run for president,” said Erica Sagrans, the campaign manager for outside group Ready For Warren. “With the 2016 race officially underway, we anticipate more Americans expressing their desire for a vigorous Democratic primary with Elizabeth Warren in it — a primary that would strengthen the eventual nominee, ensure Democrats are better positioned to win the general election, and give working families a champion in Washington.”

While many progressives won’t publicly criticize Clinton, they believe Warren, who has rallied against Wall Street and excessive money in politics, would be well-suited as a fighter for the poor and the middle class.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected on a progressive platform and is also Clinton's former campaign manager, said he is holding out endorsing her until he sees "an actual vision of where they want to go."

Warren, meanwhile, has said many times that she is not running for president. Last week, she turned down an offer of a million dollars from television host Bill Maher if she jumped in the race.

Still, Warren's supporters are continuing to organize in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Ben Wikler, Washington director of and the Run Warren Run campaign, said 12 staff members in the two states are creating “the apparatus so that when she does announce she hits the ground running.”

“We’re trying to tee up a lot of that work in advance so it’s not a barrier if she decides to run,” he added, noting that it’s not too late for Warren to change her mind. Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, didn’t jump in the presidential race until September of 1991, a full five months later than his wife's entry into the 2016 race.

Both pro-Warren groups say a contested primary is the only way to to ensure that Democrats address issues that are pertinent to progressives, like expanding social security, cracking down on Wall Street institutions and eliminating college debt.

“We look forward to hearing Hillary Clinton and other candidates laying out their platforms, and hearing whether they embrace the fights that Senator Warren has spent her life leading — from taking on Wall Street to ending skyrocketing income inequality so that working families get a fighting chance,” Sagrans said. “Without Warren in the race, we might not get that chance.”

The PCCC is taking a slightly different route. Instead of pushing Warren to run, they are just pushing her policies. And the group’s co-counder, Adam Green, said that a Clinton announcement in no way means that they will back off their agenda. They too will be stepping up their campaign and directly pressuring Clinton to take up their issues.

PCCC is also organizing in early primary states to ensure that its supporters are at Clinton’s public events to ask her if she agrees with Elizabeth Warren on economic issues.

Green said he is taking a cue from former presidential candidate Republican Newt Gingrich, who once told an audience that the way to ensure candidates start to internalize their policy demands is to ask them over and over again.

“Our hope is that Hillary Clinton endorses some truly populist ideas early in her campaign and allows such ideas to be heard through out her campaign,” Green said.

Green said his group has had “a lot of communication” with the Clinton campaign on economic issues, which he sees as a good sign that their populist message will be adopted.

“Do Democrats have the courage to think big?” Green asked.