View Full Version : Clinton Machine shaken by setback

01-05-2008, 10:45 PM
Clinton Machine Shaken by Setback
Saturday, Jan. 05, 2008 By KAREN TUMULTY


The scope of Barack Obama's victory in Iowa has shaken the Clinton machine down to its bolts. Donors are panicking. The campaign has been making a round of calls to reassure notoriously fickle "superdelegates" elected officials and party regulars who are awarded convention spots by virtue of their titles and positions who might be reconsidering their decisions to back the candidate who formerly looked like a sure winner. And internally, a round of recriminations is being aimed at her chief strategist, Mark Penn, as the representative of everything about her pseudo-incumbent campaign that has been too cautious, too arrogant, too conventional and too clueless as to how much the political landscape has shifted since the last Clinton reign. One adviser summed up the biggest challenge that faces the campaign in two words: "Fresh thinking."

Specifically, those inside the campaign and outside advisers fault Penn for failing to see the Iowa defeat coming. They say he was assuring Clinton and her allies right up until the caucuses that they would win it. Says one: "He did not predict in any way, shape or form the tidal wave we saw." In particular, he had assured them that Clinton's support among women would carry her through. Yet she managed to win only 30% of the women's vote, while 35% of them went for Obama.

A modest rise in Iowa turnout from traditional levels say by about 20,000 or 30,000 might have been easy to write off as merely the result of superior tactics on the part of the well-funded Obama operation. But the fact that voters flooded the caucuses, and that Obama swept just about every demographic group, speaks to something larger that is going on in the electorate, Clinton strategists now acknowledge.

That leaves them facing problems on two levels. The first, and easier one to grapple with, is how to deal with Obama. Even as the results in Iowa were still coming in, the Clinton campaign was mobilizing onto an attack footing. But it's possible that the most difficult problem is not Obama; it could be Clinton. How can she retool her message and her identity as a virtual incumbent to resonate with an electorate that seems to yearn more for change than any other quality? Says one longtime Democratic strategist, who is close to the Clintons: "Fundamentally, she is who she is; she can't change who she is, and maybe this is not her time."

There are senior officials within the campaign notably, outside advisers say, media consultant Mandy Grunwald and adviser Harold Ickes who have been worried for months that Clinton was missing the fundamental shift in the electorate. However, their entreaties have gone nowhere. Bill and Hillary Clinton have put enormous faith in Penn, and given him veto power, aides say, over every word that goes into her television ads and every line in her mailers. "He had her and the President's trust very deeply," says one adviser who is close to the campaign. Adds another: "He's a one-man shop."

If Clinton also loses New Hampshire to Obama, Penn's future with the campaign may well be in jeopardy, strategists say. But that may be wishful thinking on their part. For one thing, there is no obvious candidate to replace him. Hillary's advisers and Bill's have never gotten along and she has been particularly suspicious of his team. "Who they both trust that's a very small group," says one former Clinton aide. "She is going to be very, very resistant to all of the white boys coming back."

Another problem is that some of those who might potentially be brought in have already been sidelined. Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, for instance, is running a 527 organization called the Fund for America and is forbidden by law to even consult with the campaign.

But everyone is aware that a victory by Obama in New Hampshire on Tuesday could accelerate a dynamic that could become very difficult to overcome as the campaign moves on. In South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 26, half the Democratic electorate is African-American; though many have been wary of Obama's chances so far, that could change if he starts to pile up victories. Clinton might instead focus her attention on Nevada, which holds its caucus a week earlier, in hopes of snaring a victory there on presumably friendlier turf. But if Obama continues to gain strength particularly in the face of attacks by Clinton's campaign he undercuts her argument that she is the strongest and most electable candidate. And if he can stand up to the assault of the Clinton machine, it will also make him look more formidable against the Republican one.

'Hamas' Jenkins
01-06-2008, 12:08 AM
You can't run as an incumbent when everyone hates the status quo *and* you are a woman.

Everything about that screams "Outside the box" not "foregone conclusion".

Although it doesn't surprise me that the Clinton's decided on this approach, as they were also largely responsible for the ascension of thoughtless stooges like Terry McAuliffe to the head of the DNC.

F*ck, I hate that guy :banghead:

01-06-2008, 12:19 AM
This reminds me very strongly of a lengthy writeup I read after 2004 about the condition inside the Kerry campaign in the final weeks before his defeat at the hands of George W. Bush.

Poor strategy, a seeming cluelessness to what's going on around them as if they are blindfolded and never see anything coming, no agility to adjust the message to things like this, independents running away screaming, just a basic likeability problem that was well known long ago but never addressed, people inside the campaign criticizing it anonymously through the media. Hallmarks of a campaign in a death spiral.

I don't recall if Shrum was a bungling fuhrer of the campaign in the way that Penn is but the other stuff sounds similar.

And for Bill's part, the way he's been standing back, it almost feels like once he saw her start to trend down, he didn't want his legacy associated with it. He didn't speak and wasn't even mentioned at her rally the other night.

I'm not sure they can even go to the Clinton bag of tricks and go negative, either, because they're going to incite ire from most everyone on the left who views Obama favorably even if they don't support him. They have struggled the whole way with what basically seems like, how does the ice queen attack the nice guy everybody likes and expect to gain from it?

This is unrelated, but I heard that sound byte of Edwards saying of Obama, every time we come along asking for change people stand up for the status quo (Hillary)... it was at that moment where I felt nearly ready to pronounce her dead. It felt abundantly clear at that moment that if/when Edwards goes out, he's definitely not going to get behind Hillary. He could even endorse Obama and deliver the killshot, or become Obama's running mate... that seems like something with a strong likelihood from my armchair. Edwards types seem unlikely to defect to Hillary in any case.

I don't see how Nevada could pull her back from the edge. The curtain is probably going to close Tuesday on the Clintons in public life in a very ignominious way.