Hillary Clinton's Campaign Chief Meets Privately with Senate Democrats

Meantime, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus huddles with the Republican senators.

John Podesta, chair of the Center for American Progress, speaks at the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project economic forum on taxes in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, met privately with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, saying he wanted to “reintroduce” himself for the former secretary of state’s 2016 White House bid.

Podesta attended the closed-door lunch with top Clinton campaign political adviser Amanda Renteria. He told reporters the pair would tell Democratic senators “we want to stay in touch and be available as we begin to develop an organization in every state in the country.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said the reaction to Podesta's remarks "was very strong and positive" during an interview in the U.S. Capitol.

Clinton announced on April 12 she is again seeking the White House, positioning her as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said there wasn't any awkwardness in the room—even though at least one member of the group—Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats-has said he is considering running.

"It's America," Mikulski told reporters in the U.S. Capitol after the lunch. "There's a lot of presidential candidates in there. Either for this term, next term or whenever. We could go through 2050."

Podesta said support for Clinton is strong among her former Democratic colleagues in the Senate, where she represented New York from 2001 to 2009.

“Those people that are already supporting Secretary Clinton, they’ve already been helpful by putting their networks in touch with our campaign,” Podesta said. 

Senate Democrats know Podesta well from his time in the Clinton and Obama administrations and also on the Hill, Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told reporters today, adding that he looked forward "to a number of other opportunities" to hear from Podesta in coming months.

Podesta served as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton and senior counselor to President Barack Obama. Podesta has periodically attended meetings of Senate Democrats while working for Obama.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus simultaneously was attending Republicans’ closed-door lunch. Republicans control the Senate 54-46, and three of their members—Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky—have formally announced they are seeking the presidency.

South Dakota Senator John Thune conceded it would be "interesting to manage" the dynamics of having multiple senators seeking the Republican nomination.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican also weighing a presidential run, said he aimed to decide once and for all by the end of May or June. Graham said he arrived at Tuesday's lunch too late to hear the presentation.

—Erik Wasson contributed to this report.

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