Monday, August 11, 2008

Dem strategist: Obama 'unelectable'

As early as March 2007, Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn argued that Barack Obama was "unelectable except perhaps against Attila the Hun."

That's from the cache of internal Clinton campaign documents accompanying Joshua Green's Atlantic Monthly article about how Hillary lost it.

UPDATE: If you want to know how not to curry favor with the press, check out this letter from the Washington Post's managing editor, complaining that Clinton spokesman Phil Singer was badmouthing one of the Post's reporters to a colleague.

UPDATE II: OK, continuing to read through the Green article, and now we see the fatal turn:
On May 21, the deputy campaign director, Mike Henry, wrote a prescient memo noting the cost and difficulty of running there and proposing that Clinton skip the caucus. The memo was leaked to The New York Times. Henry had estimated (conservatively, as it turned out) that Iowa would require more than $15 million and 75 days of the candidate's presence, and would not provide any financial or organizational edge. "This effort may bankrupt the campaign and provide little if any political advantage," he warned. When the story appeared, Clinton felt compelled to
publicly recommit, thereby upping Iowa's significance even further.
By the time Iowa was over, Hillary had raised $100 million -- but had spent $106 million. Too much of this money went to Mark Penn, the pollster/consultant, who was very good at "big picture" image stuff but knew zilch about the grassroots mechanics of campaign organization.

Obama and Edwards had gotten a big head start in Iowa because Hillary was up for re-election to the Senate in 2006 and couldn't afford to make it appear she was looking ahead to '08. One could think of ways to get around that -- putting together a "shadow" operation in Iowa at relatively low cost that could be funded trhough her leadership PAC or other sources -- but the big brains in Team Clinton were apparently so focused on the "big picture" stuff that they neglected that kind of nuts-and-bolts thinking.

UPDATE III: In the absence of leadership:
On February 11 . . . Phil Singer, Wolfson's deputy and a man notorious for his tirades at reporters, blew up in Wolfson's office and screamed obscenities at his boss before throwing open the door to direct his ire at the campaign's policy director, Neera Tanden, an ally of [fired former campaign director Patti] Solis Doyle. "Fuck you and the whole fucking cabal!" he shouted, according to several Clinton staffers. In the end, he climbed onto a chair and screamed at the entire staff before storming out.
It is very important in any large organization that everybody knows who's boss. There must be hierarchy and clear lines of authority, and the boss has to be able to evaluate the competence of deputies. Patti Solis Doyle didn't know what she was doing, and Penn was paid way too much for what he was doing. It's impossible to evaluate Harold Ickes performance, since nobody seems to know exactly what he was supposed to be doing. And, as media strategist, Wolfson managed to alienate everyone in the media.

"Personnel is policy," the old saying goes, and Hillary's campaign had assembled a cadre of second-raters in top positions. But this is entirely the candidate's fault. The candidate is always ultimately in charge of his own campaign, and if Hillary put the wrong people in charge, she has no one to blame but herself.

UPDATE IV: In three successive e-mails (2/25, 3/5, 3/10) a group of advisers urged Hillary to challenge the DNC on the disallowed Florida and Michigan primaries, but she refused to act on their advice until May, when it was too late. Again, this is her fault.

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