They All Turned Hillary Down


This is interesting news. I have worked through the campaigns today — and while I don’t have all the detail on which campaigns did what exact back deals, I know that the Hillary Clinton campaign approached every single one of the others.
Her emissaries approached Biden, Dodd, Richardson, and Kucinich — and all of them turned her down. They all cut arrangements with Obama or Edwards.
Another bit of news that I received — and I’ll be honest — it confuses me. . .is that Bill Clinton has been pushing behind the scenes for months for Hillary to be the “optimist.” He wanted a feel good campaign — based on generating optimism in the future, rebuilding “trust” at home and “trust” abroad. Various folks I have chatted with tell me that some of the deep insiders near Clinton snickered behind the former President’s back and pushed Hillary toward a tone of “heavy times” and seriousness.
I need to report that I’m aware that other top tier journalists I can’t name have been suggesting the opposite — that a couple of months ago, some of them think that Bill Clinton was encouraging Hillary to go tough and negative against Obama.
I can’t connect these contradictory reports — but the sources on the “Bill wanted optimism” risked a lot by sharing what they did, and the scenario makes sense. The various campaign sources and close advisers I have chatted with say that Hillary has no choice now, however — and she must go negative in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton apparently kept saying “Americans want optimism; they want someone who will help them feel good. . .”
In any case. . .interesting stuff bubbling out of the campaigns.
One other item, I learned that just before Hillary Clinton went out to give her speech last night — she lined up her team, her key advisers — and was told that it seemed like the “paint was peeling off the walls.”
I didn’t quite know what that meant actually — but I’ve learned since that it meant the room was tense and Hillary was pissed.
My hunch in all of this is that those who get big demerits at the moment are those who pushed Hillary to be the somber, serious voice and those who crafted “the inevitability” campaign — and those who didn’t develop a strategy to take advantage of the fact that Iowa is the only place in the country where folks get to vote twice. Some of the internal criticism inside the campaign is being directed at Patti Solis Doyle — as it was her job apparently to organize the most effective approach toward the complex Iowa Caucus system.
One of the folks I spoke to today inside the Hillary camp said that the campaign really never figured out the caucuses — and certainly was ill-prepared for the 2nd vote phenomena.
I find that hard to believe. Haven’t we all been thinking about the movement of the 2nd choice votes for weeks? And haven’t Hillary and the other candidates been bouncing between Iowa’s nooks and crannies forever? I’m not sure I buy the notion that they were ill-prepared. . .but I do think that the Clinton campaign somehow failed to connect on message.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “They All Turned Hillary Down

  1. Tom says:

    Want to see the Dream Ticket?
    There’s a photo of the pair on page one of today’s (Sunday, Jan. 6) Washington Post.


  2. RollaMO says:

    “Ready to lead on day 1” but apparently not ready to run a campaign as well as the newbie.


  3. jhm says:

    Could the language of not properly estimating the importance of second choice votes be code for burning bridges with the other campaigns (which lead directly to their shunning her overtures)?


  4. liz says:

    It is not a hard concept to follow that Americans do not want and will not accept Bush Clinton Bush Clinton. The second Bush was so bad that not a soul in America even wants to try the second Clinton.
    That is what is being rejected as much as anything.


  5. Dan Kervick says:

    I agree with Steve that it is hard to believe that “the campaign really never figured out the caucuses” and was “ill-prepared for the 2nd vote phenomena.” This is the Clinton’s third Iowa campaign. I’m sure they understand perfectly well by now how the caucus system works. It sounds more like an excuse. It’s slightly less embarrassing to say “we didn’t get the thing figured out” than to say “we figured it out well enough, but couldn’t get any of those people to vote for us.”
    It’s interesting to reflect on why it is exactly that the Clinton campaign has successfully alienated all of the other campaigns. There seems to be an awful lot of resentment out there about something. Perhaps there was too much strong-arming along the way.


  6. Joe M. says:

    This post and the comments express the fundamental problem with American politics. THERE IS NO SUBSTANCE! No one asks whether Hillary’s policies caused her to lose, and no one knows what her policies are. The U.S.A. is hardly more democratic than American Idol. All you do is talk about the “message” or “going negative” of whatever nonsense. it’s pathetic. When the electorate has no clue what they are voting for. when they have no idea that Obama is farther to the left than Clinton.
    Generally Mr. Clemons does well to try to inject policy into the discussion, but he is only a small voice. And yet, obviously, policy doesn’t even come up as an issue in discussing an actual election.
    Who gives a damn whether “Bill wanted optimism” or whether she presents an attitude of “heavy times”? Why not make the election about policy? Why is it so empty of substance and policy? No wonder the USA is destroying itself and taking the world with it. Americans can’t even elect a president on more than their TV persona. Pathetic.


  7. Donna Z says:

    About those second vote refusals: that might signal that the party insiders are unhappy being dominated by the Clinton machine.
    It is just unbelievable that the experienced team didn’t know everything there is to know about the Iowa system. Sorry. Vilsack is her chair.


  8. jackifus says:

    Bill Clinton saying that Americans want some one who makes them feel good – is absolutely correct. Hillary does not have a likable personal presence that puts people at ease. This is a major issue.
    Were John Kerry more personable – he’d likely be the president today.
    I’m not saying that personal presence as judgment criterion is ideal … I’m saying it likely figures in to voters’ decisions more than stated policy positions do.
    For HRC to “go negative” will solidify her coldness. Bush could go negative, because his jokey, friendly demeanor is so incongruous with the negative message, (or torture for that matter), that people don’t quite associate the message or the deed with the individual.
    HRC does not have the personable presence to get away with that.


  9. Mimikatz says:

    In 1992 Bill Clinton became the hip candidate–remember the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show? The funny thing about the Hillary campaign is that he’s still playing that role, but now Obama is the hip new face, and Bill looks old. Their assemblage on stage last night took the spotlight off Hillary–too many others crowding in–while Obama stood alone for the cameras and flashed that smile. It’s something watching the torch pass. It’s hard to believe there won’t be another Boomer candidate, but Bill really looks old these days, and so does Hill. (And I’m older than either of them!)


  10. Kathleen says:

    Well, just because Teddy did not have an overt role in Iowa, doesn’t mean he didn’t have ahnd in the background. Ted Sorenson joining Obama long ago gave him some of the machine Dems. That’s what turned the tide for Kerry on Iowa in 04 and took it away from Dean… the Teddy factor.
    Again, it keeps the process open and is a struggle for control of the party reins.


  11. mke/ says:

    There are two mentions above about Bill Clinton and the 1992 caucus. He only received 3% of the votes that year!


  12. Katherine says:

    Hmph. I would think the “experienced” candidate would have a better grasp of the caucus system, wouldn’t you? Or is this where we see that being around a campaign (or president) and being the candidate (or president) are not the same thing?


  13. frank C says:

    Anybody who thinks Bill Clinton “ran the party into the ground” is plum crazy. It was hard as heck to win in the 90s for a D, and Bill did that. We owe him a great deal of gratitude, even though he was not perfect.
    Newsflash: Tom Harkin did not contend in ’92. That’s where the country was. Bill got slammed in 92 to 93, hence his shift to center. He is NOT SATAN.
    I bet the quote above was correct. And yes, HRC should have listed to Bill if this is true. This is a time for optimism, and HRC may not be smart enough politically to know that.


  14. Bill R. says:

    Steve, thanks for sharing your perceptions. You are right about Hillary’s loss. I’m alarmed that she doesn’t accept responsibility for her loss. The message is flawed. What is her rationale, why should we vote for her? This response is consistent with her unwillingness to take responsibility for bad judgment on the Iraq vote. I fear we have not only a flawed message but a flawed messenger. Going “negative” will only hurt her more and fill in the “dragon-lady” frame that some voters already have of her.


  15. CTown Architect says:

    When your campaign is surrounded by the same group of sad sacks that have run the Democratic Party into the ground over the last few election cycles, I find it very easy to believe that the campaign thought the magic “Clinton” name was their savior in the end.
    My sense is the Clinton campaign “jumped the shark” as soon as Bill said how voting for Obama was a roll of the dice — you know, the same roll of the dice voters took on him in 1992, despite ll of the warnings that he wasn’t ready for it.
    Thanks for the inside info, Steve. It will be interesting to see how strong Hillary’s support within the Democratic Party establishment says now that she’s not “inevitable.”


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *