Three weeks ago, when the WSJ ran an infomercial of the "down to earth" Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as just the guy next door in "Mark Zuckerberg Hits the Road to Meet Regular Folks" as part of Zuckerberg's tour of the country...
... the obvious question immediately emerged: is Zuck's publicity stunt preparation for a presidential run?
The answer increasingly looks like "yes", because as Politico reported on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton’s former pollster, Joel Benenson, the chief strategist in Clinton’s 2016 doomed campaign has been hired to conduct research for Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s nonprofit, the Zuckerberg-Chan initiative. Officially Benenson’s work, done through his company Benenson Strategy Group, will focus on the couple’s philanthropy. However, it will give Zuckerberg access to yet another top pollster as rumors of a potential presidential run grow ever louder.
In January, the Zuckerbergs hired another top political advisor - David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential run - as president of policy and advocacy. Plouffe had previously worked at Uber. Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, also sits on the board. And earlier this year, Politico reports that the couple also brought on Amy Dudley, a former communications adviser to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
In retrospect, Mark Zuckerberg appears to be building an army of presidential advisors.
As part of his tour of the U.S., in June he stopped over in Iowa, a key launchpad for anyone floating a presidential bid. Zuckerberh's "Year of Travel" has been compared to a grassroots presidential listening tour and fueled speculation he could run for president.
Of course, Zuckerberg denies everything.
"Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not," he wrote in a Facebook post earlier this year. "I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative."
Zuck won't be the first, or last, politician to lie about not running. Meanwhile, the rumors of a run have persisted as the Facebook founder continues his tour and weighs in on political issues like healthcare.