Stop Hillary PAC follows Clinton into Virginia governor's race

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks after receiving the Liberty Medal during a ceremony at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

When former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dips her toe back into political waters this month, she'll get a fresh reminder of the deep wells of acrimony against her that conservatives are ready to tap.

In her first political event since leaving the Obama administration early this year, Clinton is slated to host a fundraiser on Sept. 30 for Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally who's now running for governor in Virginia. In response to Clinton's move, the "Stop Hillary" PAC is planning its own campaign.

The political action committee -- created for the express purpose of stopping Clinton's prospective presidential campaign before it even begins -- is launching a campaign on Tuesday to back McAuliffe's competitor, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The group is emailing, mailing and calling its supporters across the country, asking them to either financially back Stop Hillary PAC or Cuccinelli's campaign directly. Once it's rallied that grassroots support, Stop Hillary PAC plans to make a donation to the Cuccinelli campaign.

"Our mission from the beginning has been to stop Hillary anywhere she goes, to counter her in any way possible," Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for Stop Hillary PAC, told "That's what we're doing right now."

Marquis said the PAC is rallying support both in and outside of Virginia because "people across the country are concerned about the Hillary and Bill liberal machine," and Clinton's support for the McAuliffe campaign is "one example of the machine at work."

"People in Arizona, people in Nevada, or in Ohio, they understand the implications this might have on the greater political landscape," he added. "Another Democrat governor in a purple state is impactful, no matter how you look at it."

The email the group is sending out Tuesday says, "We simply can't ignore some of these important state-by-state power plays Hillary is making. Hillary and her allies are most certainly using them as an opportunity to strengthen her grip over key 2016 battleground states. States she will need to steal the White House."

Clinton has yet to say whether she'll run for president in 2016, but polls show she's the candidate to beat, and her supporters have already organized in the key early-nominating state of Iowa. Polls conducted over the summer showed Clinton has, for the most part, maintained the strong public approval rating she's enjoyed since 2008. Her approval rating has, however, fallen slightly this year, potentially because of her association with the Benghazi, Libya controversy. It's likely to fall further as she reemerges as a political figure and conservative groups like Stop Hillary PAC step up their attacks.

The Virginia gubernatorial candidates, meanwhile, have their own concerning polling numbers.

"The Virginia governor's race pits two of the least well-liked candidates that we can recall competing in a single election," the bipartisan firm Purple Strategies reported after polling Virginians on Sept. 6-10. Their survey found that just 24 percent of Virginia voters have a favorable view of McAuliffe while just 29 percent have a favorable view of Cuccinelli. The poll showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by five points, 43 percent to 38 percent.

Both candidates have suffered from negative business associations. Cuccinelli last week announced he's donating $18,000 to charity to make up for the $18,000 in gifts he received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, whose gifts to Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., are currently under investigation.

Marquis said there's "no doubt it's going to be a tough race" but that he believes Cuccinelli still has a shot at winning. The Stop Hillary PAC, meanwhile, is far from the only outside group trying to influence the race. The conservative group Citizens United spent $284,000 attacking McAuliffe, Politico reports, while organizations like NextGen Climate Action and the National Education Association have supported McAuliffe.

National figures are lining up behind the candidates as well. While Clinton is holding a fundraiser later this month for McAuliffe, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have already appeared with the Democratic candidate. Cuccinelli has recruited high-profile Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., to help him campaign.