Friday, June 06, 2008

"All of these issues can be traced back to one source: hubris"

Good breakdown of why Clinton lost on TPM, by Big Blue that draws on a (surprisingly good) analysis by the WSJ on the subject.

So, what killed her candidacy? Well, three things really, according to BB: "she ran with a message that was out of step with the mood of the electorate, she failed to consider that she might face a genuine challenge from one of her opponents, and she dismissed a slew of states as unimportant." Some of that was her fault, but a lot of it was from Mark Penn being an idiot who doesn't understand that polls can change and doesn't know how to run a primary campaign:

(Italics are from the WSJ)

Clinton couldn't get the message right because she was running an "incumbent" campaign. Who runs an incumbent campaign for an office for which you haven't even been nominated yet? So, we end up with Clinton talking about experience, when the country is really looking for someone to just steer the ship in a new direction. Saying you've been on deck the whole time while the captain's been slaloming through the ice bergs is probably not the best way to approach the issue. And who was the architect of Clinton's messaging? Why, her chief strategist and sole pollster, of course. It's not just that Mark Penn got it wrong, it's that plenty of people in the campaign had it right, but were rebuffed.

Before her January 2007 debut as a candidate, the senator's team wrangled over how to portray her. Ms. Solis Doyle, communications director Howard Wolfson, media strategist Mandy Grunwald, policy chief Neera Tanden and senior strategist Harold Ickes wanted to promote her as a candidate of change -- the first woman president -- her Washington years notwithstanding. They also wanted to counter the candidate's high negative ratings among the general population by revealing the witty, engaging woman they knew.

Mr. Penn, by contrast, believed that voters would need to perceive Sen. Clinton as tough and seasoned enough to be the first female commander in chief. Emphasizing her gender too much, he argued, would undercut that. He also said Sen. Clinton would look weak if she apologized for her 2002 war vote, though it was especially unpopular in Iowa.

When one insider pleaded during meetings in 2007 to humanize the candidate, witnesses say Mr. Penn responded: "Being human is overrated."

Yes, when you're candidate already has an image of being a mechanical, poll driven poltician of limitless ambition (and I'm not saying it's a fair characterization), then the last thing you want to do is take some of the edge off that by "humanizing" her. My theory is that Mark Penn undervalues the quality of being a human being -- long considered a necessity to even be eligible for public office - due to his clearly alien origins. I mean, just look at this guy? If he was born on Earth, then I'm the king of Spain. That guy hatched from an egg, no two ways about it.
No argument here. That said, the hubris was still mostly Clinton's. She didn't thing Obama was a threat.

Then again, why would she? She had pretty much the entire Democratic machine in her pocket. She had most of the big-fish donors in her pocket. She had the big states' democratic machines in her pocket. Plus, she's Mrs. Bill Clinton. How the HELL could she lose with all of that?

And that's the thing. It wasn't a bad assumption. She would have crushed anybody else. But Obama's people knew the game, knew what they were up against, and (most importantly) figured out how to beat it.

Don't have the machine on your side? Great! Go populist, because you'll always have people willing to help if you run AGAINST the machine. That's especially true if you build your own machine (like, say, on the goddamnedest campaign website I've ever seen) to employ these people to help build a movement.

Don't have the big fish? Great! Get lots of little ones. Whales eat microscopic krill and they're huge, why not use the same principle? So you build THAT into your website too.

Don't have the big states' machines? Fine! Go after the little ones, with all those nasty little caucuses that the Clintons disdain.

Mix all that with a campaign manager who is an actual genius, unlike the overrated Karl Rove, and Clinton's hubris was badly, badly misplaced. She had no IDEA what she was up against.

And, I suspect, neither does McCain.

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