Thursday May 8, 2008, 1:58 pm
For all her talk about "full speed on to the White House," there was an unmistakably elegiac tone to Hillary Clinton's primary-night speech in Indianapolis. And if one needed further confirmation that the undaunted, never-say-die Clintons realize their bid might be at an end, all it took was a look at the wistful faces of the husband and the daughter who stood behind the candidate as she talked of all the people she has met in a journey "that has been a blessing for me."
It was also a journey she had begun with what appeared to be insurmountable advantages, which evaporated one by one as the campaign dragged on far longer than anyone could have anticipated. She made at least five big mistakes, each of which compounded the others:
1. She misjudged the mood
That was probably her biggest blunder. In a cycle that has been all about change, Clinton chose an incumbent's strategy, running on experience, preparedness, inevitability — and the power of the strongest brand name in Democratic politics. It made sense, given who she is and the additional doubts that some voters might have about making a woman Commander in Chief. But in putting her focus on positioning herself to win the general election in November, Clinton completely misread the mood of Democratic-primary voters, who were desperate to turn the page. "Being the consummate Washington insider is not where you want to be in a year when people want change," says Barack Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod. Clinton's "initial strategic positioning was wrong and kind of played into our hands." But other miscalculations made it worse:
2. She didn't master the rules
Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game. That became abundantly clear in a strategy session last year, according to two people who were there. As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. "How can it possibly be," Ickes asked, "that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?" And yet the strategy remained the same, with the campaign making its bet on big-state victories. Even now, it can seem as if they don't get it. Both Bill and Hillary have noted plaintively that if Democrats had the same winner-take-all rules as Republicans, she'd be the nominee. Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign now acknowledges privately:
3. She underestimated the caucus states
While Clinton based her strategy on the big contests, she seemed to virtually overlook states like Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas, which choose their delegates through caucuses. She had a reason: the Clintons decided, says an adviser, that "caucus states were not really their thing." Her core supporters — women, the elderly, those with blue-collar jobs — were less likely to be able to commit an evening of the week, as the process requires. But it was a little like unilateral disarmament in states worth 12% of the pledged delegates. Indeed, it was in the caucus states that Obama piled up his lead among pledged delegates. "For all the talent and the money they had over there," says Axelrod, "they — bewilderingly — seemed to have little understanding for the caucuses and how important they would become."
By the time Clinton's lieutenants realized the grave nature of their error, they lacked the resources to do anything about it — in part because:
4. She relied on old money
For a decade or more, the Clintons set the standard for political fund-raising in the Democratic Party, and nearly all Bill's old donors had re-upped for Hillary's bid. Her 2006 Senate campaign had raised an astonishing $51.6 million against token opposition, in what everyone assumed was merely a dry run for a far bigger contest. But something had happened to fund-raising that Team Clinton didn't fully grasp: the Internet. Though Clinton's totals from working the shrimp-cocktail circuit remained impressive by every historic measure, her donors were typically big-check writers. And once they had ponied up the $2,300 allowed by law, they were forbidden to give more. The once bottomless Clinton well was drying up.
Obama relied instead on a different model: the 800,000-plus people who had signed up on his website and could continue sending money his way $5, $10 and $50 at a time. (The campaign has raised more than $100 million online, better than half its total.) Meanwhile, the Clintons were forced to tap the $100 million — plus fortune they had acquired since he left the White House — first for $5 million in January to make it to Super Tuesday and then $6.4 million to get her through Indiana and North Carolina. And that reflects one final mistake:
5. She never counted on a long haul
Clinton's strategy had been premised on delivering a knockout blow early. If she could win Iowa, she believed, the race would be over. Clinton spent lavishly there yet finished a disappointing third. What surprised the Obama forces was how long it took her campaign to retool. She fought him to a tie in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests but didn't have any troops in place for the states that followed. Obama, on the other hand, was a train running hard on two or three tracks. Whatever the Chicago headquarters was unveiling to win immediate contests, it always had a separate operation setting up organizations in the states that were next. As far back as Feb. 21, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was spotted in Raleigh, N.C. He told the News & Observer that the state's primary, then more than 10 weeks away, "could end up being very important in the nomination fight." At the time, the idea seemed laughable.
Now, of course, the question seems not whether Clinton will exit the race but when. She continues to load her schedule with campaign stops, even as calls for her to concede grow louder. But the voice she is listening to now is the one inside her head, explains a longtime aide. Clinton's calculation is as much about history as it is about politics. As the first woman to have come this far, Clinton has told those close to her, she wants people who invested their hopes in her to see that she has given it her best. And then? As she said in Indianapolis, "No matter what happens, I will work for the nominee of the Democratic Party because we must win in November." When the task at hand is healing divisions in the Democratic Party, the loser can have as much influence as the winner.
Friday May 9, 2008, 11:33 am
Clinton: But whites like me!
“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
“There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.
How is that not race-baiting?
This is why Clinton needs to drop out now. When the Democratic candidate starts race baiting, the Democrats have a real problem. It’s going to be bad enough with taking this $hit from the Republicans, we don’t need to take it from someone in our own party. And, she is poisoning the well with this kind of talk. When she is finally dragged from the room kicking and screaming, her supporters are going to go with her.
A very interesting & well-written opinion piece that goes back over the Obama-Clinton duel at this historic moment, which I've read (and posted) from the
Independent : "Matthew Norman: American democracy in all its filthy glory,"
which I entitled : "Obama Emerges Unscathed & Strengthened From 2-Month Ordeal With Few Forays Into Reciprocal Squalor" because the author said that, too, and has some very good things to say about Barack & his chances of victory :
Yeah, in response to your 2nd comment, Matthew Norman in the Independent talks about race-baiting, too.
Whereas the headlines and remarks about Obama being elitist, your article, Blue, again establishes what I always thought was true - namely, that it was an enormous groundswell of support from individuals making small campaign contributions that gave Barack his financial strength. It is Clinton who is the elitist, with the big contributors and the old-style fund raising model.
Saturday May 10, 2008, 11:05 am
The Night the Old Politics Died
Often it's hard to spot true turning points. What looks important one day can fade into obscurity the next, and other times we overlook the event that really changes history. In this guest essay, Brent Budowsky argues that May 6 marked the end of the old negative politics. May 7, 2008
Monday May 12, 2008, 12:55 am
This is of interest...
"If Sen. John McCain holds both states for Republicans in November, Democrats must put together 47 offsetting votes in the state-based, winner-take-all Electoral College.
Ohio and Florida are the foundation of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's last-ditch attempt to convince fellow Democrats that her strengths with Latinos, women, seniors and the white working class play best against McCain in roughly 10 swing states.
Sen. Barack Obama's victories in nearly every primary since February have rested on African Americans, upscale whites and young people. He has consistently performed poorly among key populations in Florida - Latinos, seniors and Jewish voters - and in Ohio among older women, Catholics and the white working class, what some call the "blue-collar, blue-hair vote."
It was perhaps inevitable that the history-making Democratic candidates would open a race and gender divide by stirring intense group loyalty. But now conservative Democrats are worried.
Sixteen members of Congress from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Nevada and other swing states wrote in a letter posted on Clinton's Web site Friday that her Pennsylvania victory last month was a "wake-up call."
"Hillary has racked up victories in bellwether states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and now Indiana that are absolutely vital to winning the White House and maintaining our Congressional majority in the fall," they wrote."