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February 11, 2008

Comments

Some of this reporting is the inevitable result of a media post mortem of a fallen favorite. And some of this is the result of a press investigating a person they do not like.

But, as hilzoy points out, there wouldn't be a story if Clinton had run the campaign well enough to snuff out all challengers from the start. And THAT bodes ill for a potential presidency.

Still time to save it. And saving the nomination does say some good things about her capabilities. But better that she didn't get herself into this spot in the first place.

You'd think the "experienced" candidate could run a half competent campaign.

Guess not.

The larger picture:

MR. RUSSERT: [...] And if you look at the vote count thus far in these primaries, here it is: Republicans have gotten 12.9 million votes, Democrats have gotten 19.2 [million] votes.
Res ipsa loquitur.

You'd think the "experienced" candidate could run a half competent campaign.

Guess not.

Yeah, no kidding. I've been saying since New Hampshire that that line would come back to bite them in the ass at some point. I mean, eventually people have to start asking, "If you're so experienced, and Obama's not, why aren't you winning?"

Great post, hilzoy.

Losing track of the money situation is just staggering. I mean, $175 million is a decent sized chunk of change and I can't imagine any organization processing that much cash without a fair bit of structure and internal controls. That structure should ensure that the people at the top, including both Clinton and Solis, are regularly updated on the financial situation. I'd expect regular reports on how much cash is in the bank, how much is coming in, and how much is going out. But lying about money? That seems like the kind of thing that should lead to a termination and indictment.

As an Obama advocate, this almost seems too good to be true, especially with the press' record of just making stuff up about the Clintons. This story has the potential for some really great political ads: "Hillary Clinton can't even manage her campaign's finances. Why should we trust her with America's?"

I can understand failing to plan beyond super tuesday though. Assuming that Clinton bought her own spin, she might have seen Obama as too inexperienced for the Presidency and concluded that voters would agree with that as well. During the early part of the campaign, there were more than enough positive events to reinforce the Clinton camp's preconceived notions on the inevitability of their victory: money was coming in, lots of poll numbers were good (even if the trend lines weren't), and endorsements were being made left and right. What could possibly go wrong?

I don't mean to be snide, but this post reminds of the halcyon days of 2002 when "everyone" "knew" that the US military was going to take over Iraq with no problems whatsoever and then everything would be great so why even bother thinking about what comes after? Hubris leads to planning failures.

Great post.

Hey, if she can't run her organization well in a time of challenge (not even crisis), if she can't make sound strategic decisions about where to invest and where not to, if she can't budget her campaign, if she is slow to adapt on the campaign trail (the only adaptation I've seen so far -- Bill in South Carolina -- backfired horribly), if she has bad bad miscommunication at the very top of her organization, shouldn't I hold this against her aptitude to be President?

I really think the ability to put together a sound organization and organizational culture should be at the very top of the list of things we look for in a candidate.

These are particularly bad news stories for Clinton, since she's branded herself as such a stable, competent manager. No, in fact, Bush Jr. ran a tighter ship.

She'll be ready on day one.

But until day one, flail flail flail.

I really think the ability to put together a sound organization and organizational culture should be at the very top of the list of things we look for in a candidate.

I disagree in many respects with Richard Ben Cramer’s thesis in his book "What It Takes," namely the idea that presidential candidates are best evaluated on how they run and endure their campaign, but I cannot deny that book's influence in the press. In fact, here's a bit about that influence:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/opinion/25halperin.html

Given this shakeup and the financial revelations I fully expect these matters to become a big issue over the next few days. Mark my words, you're gonna hear that a lot of people saying things like "If she can't run her campaign in a competent manner then is she really ready for the presidency?"

And I think that's a legitimate question to ask. Because even though I don't agree with Cramer's thesis entirely, I don't disagree with it entirely either.

Remembering what Dutchmarble said, I just want to note that this is what a pile-on is like. However, Americans love a winner, and hate a loser, and though it does reinforce sexist and racist power imbalances, is not driven by them (cf. the death spiral watches on Rudy and Fred). The only losers Americans love are the old established baseball teams, and that only goes so far.

And occasionally football teams (viz. the Packers).

lj,

I'm not sure the term pile-on makes sense in reference to a presidential campaign. I'm also not sure I'd call her a loser just yet: this is a close race.

It seems like the draw for this post is the spectacle: we're seeing something unexpected. Comments seem to echo shock more than schadenfreude.

Comments seem to echo shock more than schadenfreude.

I agree, but there's also the hypocrisy issue. If a company holds itself out as a financial expert, and you find out that the CEO loaned $5M of their own money to keep it afloat without telling the CFO, and meanwhile the CFO didn't tell the CEO that the company was broke after blowing through $175M dollars and that the entire company hadn't gameplanned their quarter past the first month, I think that's about the point where everyone picks their jaws up off the floor and asks, "Um, what!? This is expertise!?"

One thing seems clear here: Obama is just not great speaker, he is a great organizer.
one of the reason the Clinton organization looks so bad is that quite simply Obama and his team out thought and out organized Hilary.They not only built an insanely great fund raising machine, but they spent their money well, building a grassroots organization practically from the ground up in 18 months that was able to compete in practically every state. Hell, whats incredioble is that obama has organized and won in states where no black man has gone before (Idaho, Alaska, and now Maine).
The Hilary campaign should have found it easy to organist in those states by just relying on the traditional Democratic Party machinery, but they couldn't even get that done.
Hillary was certainly right to fire Ms. Doyle, but to be honest, if they had gone up against a typical candidate, their strategy would have worked. Whats clear now is that Obama is an extraordinary candidate and an extraordinary organizer. My guess is that win or lose, his campaign is going to be remembered as being one of the best organized in history

"I don't mean to be snide, but this post reminds of the halcyon days of 2002 when "everyone" "knew" that the US military was going to take over Iraq with no problems whatsoever and then everything would be great so why even bother thinking about what comes after? Hubris leads to planning failures."

That isn't being snide, it is being accurate. And just it doesn't mean the lack of planning for Iraq necessarily means that we will "lose" there, Clinton's horrible planning doesn't mean she will lose.

The other thing is that it is about more than management skills. It is about who you hire to do a lot of the planning and other work for you. Clinton could be incompetent in many ways, but if she had good people around her there wouldn't be this problem.

But hubris filters down.

I think ragging on Sen. Clinton's staff shows looking through the wrong end of the telescope. As Gary notes above, Dems are flocking to the polls. I think this is basically because of Obama's positive presentation, and not out of some Hillary hate. If it had been Edwards on the gold medal podium in Iowa, and not Obama, Hillary's team would be doing just fine, and we'd still be outdrawing Republicans 16 to 13 million votes.

I think that the inside of political campaigns are far more hectic and personality-ridden than we know. I happen to know someone who was on the inside, near the top, of the Edwards campaign. The stories of the infighting, backstabbing, information hiding, recriminations, etc., are fascinating. I'd guess that other campaigns are similar, and the info in this post just confirms this guess.

I think the first warning signs of this were the staggering burn rates of her senate re-election campaign. i know that some of that funding went toward infrastructure building for 2008. but still.

By the way, this is something i should know but don't. When campaigns burn through cash, what usually is the problem? Too many ads? Too many mailings? Too many bigshots on the payroll? I just don't know where the money goes on a micro-level

I think it's basically right to attribute a lot of Obama's success to his (and his campaign's) abilities rather than Clinton's failures. As I said back at my place two months ago, my opinion has been that (with the exception of NH), he's been playing at a whole different level and really schooling a very capable Clinton campaign at every turn.

(I'm totally showing my cards as a fanboy who's drunk the kool-aid at this point, but what the heck. Obama has really, really impressed me, and I think he's still being underestimated.)

Obama's been exceptional so far. From the start, he showed a lot of patience by not coming on too strong too early, and then at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner he just stood up and knocked it out of the park -- I remember thinking soon after that it was so effortless, and the timing was so perfect, that it wasn't accidental. It was exactly what he needed to do at that moment to start building momentum for Iowa, it was exactly the place to do it, and he'd really been holding back on the oratory before then, though ever since it's become apparent that he can really be eloquent whenever he feels like it. This isn't beginner's luck. This is the savvy of a diehard Chicago community organizer.

I mean, let's make no mistake -- Hillary Clinton is a formidable opponent and she has a lot of very good, very experienced people on her campaign. But at least since November, Obama's been three steps ahead of them, whether anyone knew it or not.

For example:

- He kept Clinton complacent for way longer than she should have been, despite the fact that he was raking in money and building a campaign structure at an absurd pace; and he built it from scratch, parallel to the Democratic structure -- which wasn't just a bold move, but brilliant strategy, because Hillary already had clear control of the Party apparatus, it's made him unstoppable in caucuses, and it gave him the advantage of surprise in Iowa and elsewhere. (As we were discussing over at LGM, I'm fairly certain that Edwards and Clinton were both expecting to take Iowa, and the pro-Obama turnout of new voters just blindsided them completely.)

- He baited Clinton into going negative (e.g., the whole kindergarten schtick, "this is the fun part") and then punished them for it. Bad.

- That moment with Clinton in the debate where he tossed off the "I'm looking forward to you advising me as well" bit and looked gracious doing it was pretty amazing. I think you could see in his face at that moment (and actually, you could hear him say under his breath, "Oh, you want to hear that?") something like, You guys don't even know what you're up against. That was beauty.

- He baited Bill Clinton -- who's the elder statesman of the party and who's also no political slouch -- into letting his emotions get the best of him, and made the Clinton campaign pay for that in South Carolina. Think for a bit that about how many Republicans have tried to do that to Clinton and failed, and how easily Obama was able to knock Bill off his game.

- When the Clinton campaign tried to demagogue him over the Reagan comment, he not only defused it effortlessly (and probably gained some independent support in the process), he slipped in the "I don't know who I'm campaigning against" line in the debate and basically changed the entire dynamic of the race.

- He's navigated the race minefield more deftly than any politician I can think of, and that is really no easy task. The Clinton camp did everything they could to wedge him into either sacrificing the black vote or being pegged as "the Black candidate," but he came out the other end getting the best of both sides. I'm still not really sure how he did that.

Those are just the examples that spring to mind immediately -- with the exception of New Hampshire (where the Obama campaign was arguably the victim of their own success -- the expectations ran away from them, and it woke up the Clinton campaign briefly), Obama has been way, way more adept a politician than I'd ever dreamed. As far back as 2004, it was easy to see this race brewing, and I would have bet money that it'd be a whole lot of Obama trying to recover from neophyte mistakes like Dean versus a lot of clumsiness from an over-entitled, overconfident Clinton team. Much to my delight, Clinton's campaign has actually exceeded my expectations (if Kerry had been half as competent, 2004 would have been a walk), but Obama has just been, well, phenomenal. He's a really, really good politician in his own right.

Regardless, win or lose, I think I'll count this as the year I stopped fearing my party's perpetual, maddening incompetence. The GOP might get their best candidate (McCain) as the nominee, but if they do, it'll be by accident. It's been a comedy of errors over there. The Democrats have been gamers. If we can keep this up, we might actually accomplish a few things rather than spending all our time and energy playing defense and trying to hide from the GOP.

I'm having fun.

By the way, this is something i should know but don't. When campaigns burn through cash, what usually is the problem? Too many ads? Too many mailings? Too many bigshots on the payroll? I just don't know where the money goes on a micro-level

I'm just speculating, but I'd bet it's the same thing that happens in a poorly-run business. Too many incidental expenses, not enough accounting for costs, not enough analysis of ROI on marketing and personnel, etc.

That's the only way I can think of to explain that Clinton didn't know she was broke while at the same time the person in charge of finances didn't know Clinton had loaned the campaign $5M.

That's just a clear-as-day sign of dysfunctional management, and my experience is that in that sort of company, the money leaks out so fast that you can't even tell where it goes.

It was clear immediately after the South Carolina primary that the the Clintons believed Super Tuesday would be the knock out punch for Obama.

Before the votes had been counted they both took to the stage, he in Missouri and she in Tennessee, and hailed the coming Super Tuesday "when millions of Americans" would have their say. You have to believe they were stunned that so many millions of those Americans. and so many states, went for the other guy.

Now they are reduced to a Giuliani-like strategy of depending on a couple big states, Texas and Ohio. Texas? Hillary Clinton is depending on Texas. That is ironic because there isn't a more unpopular politician in Texas than Hillary Clinton.

That's another way of saying we'll never know, but one other thing that's worth mentioning -- do you remember Dean spending some obscene amount of money to get ads from Joe Trippi's production company?

One of the most deadly problems with poor management is the laziness of nepotism -- mid-level managers farming out jobs based on contacts rather than evaluating actual effectiveness.

publius: When campaigns burn through cash, what usually is the problem?

Not that I’m an expert, but media buys, and commissions on media buys is a big expense. Clinton’s campaign paid Mark Penn’s firm $4.3M and owes them another $1.5M.

It's probably worth some initial caution here. It's not like the mass media instantly became fair and balanced in their reporting just because some of us are interested in stories of the Clinton campaign in disorder. As additional info comes to hand, not all our early guesses will pan out, and we should go slow in jumping to any big conclusions.

Insofar as this is all true, it doesn't need an instantaneous reaction.

When campaigns burn through cash, what usually is the problem?

In businesses it is often ego and overconfidence. You think you're a wizard so you invest in every idea you have, because they are all strokes of genius certain to pay off handsomely. And along with that sometimes goes excessive spending on all kinds of unnecessary stuff - airplanes, too much staff, etc.

Overstaffing is a particularly hard problem to deal with. What happens is not that people are sitting around idle, it's that many are working hard on useless tasks. You have to figure out what really is productive, and then deal with the organizational politics of cutting back. Of course managers hate having their staff cut, and those let go, and their friends, are aggrieved: "Gee, she was working twelve-hour days for low pay and they just fired her."

That probably happens in campaigns as well.

I agree with Bruce. Let's not get carried away. Some of the stuff about money doesn't even make sense to me. Why would Clinton be lending $5 million if she didn't know they were having money problems, and how would Solis Doyle be aware of the money problems if she wasn't paying enough attention to see that Clinton had lent $5 million?

Why would Clinton be lending $5 million if she didn't know they were having money problems, and how would Solis Doyle be aware of the money problems if she wasn't paying enough attention to see that Clinton had lent $5 million?

Reading the paragraph again, it sounds to me like the two things didn't happen concurrently. Solis Doyle didn't tell Clinton about the money problem until after New Hampshire, and after she found out, Clinton made the loan, but she didn't tell Solis Doyle.

(No matter how it happened, if any or all of the story is true it's pretty insane.)

Agree with both Bruce and KC about the money issues. To me, though, is the sense that the Clinton campaign appeared to approach the whole thing as though they really wouldn't need to worry about anything after Super Tuesday and had little if any contingency planning for handling a grueling campaign past that day.

And it is the second part of that last sentence that concerns me. It is one thing to be confident, it is another to not realize that things may not go the way you want them to go and to be prepared just in case.

My best guess, and that is all it is, is that the $5 million dollar loan was to pump money into creating a campaign structure into states where they didn't think they would have to compete and to do it quickly, with the knowledge that money would be coming in. The question is whether they have been able to do it quickly enough.

Did you guys catch Krugman's column today? Seemed kind of uncharacteristically clueless to me. -- Coming to it as I did from the past couple of weeks reading Hilzoy's posts on the Democratic primaries and the state of the party.

Krugman has become unreadably obsessed with attacking Obama. I've had to substitute other bearded economists, such as Dean Baker and Robert Reich.

This seems remarkably short sighted:

His decision to go up on the air helped as well. Obama put a few hundred thousand dollars into television ads the last week of the Louisiana campaign; Clinton was not on television at all. Among the 63 percent of primary voters who said that campaign ads mattered, Obama won by 19 percentage points (59 percent to 40 percent).

A “few hundred thousand dollars” in the scope of this campaign is chump change.

BTW here in eastern MD in the last week before the primary I’ve been seeing about 3 Obama ads to every one HRC ad. He’s obviously outspending her by a fair margin here as well.

I agree about the dangers of instant analysis, and the need for skepticism. That said, what was striking to me was that there were several points that came up in a number of different pieces, that were pretty hard for me to explain as spin, and that seemed to me to indicate pretty poor management. (E.g., the "who knew we'd be going past Super Tuesday?" point.)

-- I did think of the Iraq analogy -- I mean, I have been saying "contingency planning ought to be as basic as breathing for large, important endeavors like a war (or a campaign)! -- and it is, fundamentally, the same mistake: not just thinking that things will go your way, but assuming that they will, and therefore not bothering to plan for the possibility that they won't. But I decided it might be over the top. -- I really did write this post in a spirit of bafflement, not schadenfreude.

I mean, I have been saying "contingency planning ought to be as basic as breathing for large, important endeavors like a war (or a campaign)!

If anybody actually did this anymore we wouldn't have had Enron, bridge collapses, or most of the Bush administration. And new Orleans would still have a population of 700,000.


Incidentally, since I live in New York state, I remember the same tendency on Clinton's last Senate campaign. She had the Republican designated schnook buried fairly early, but sailed thru a lot of money just to make sure he wasn't going to come back to life after being shot, burned, staked, and sprinkled with holy water. Short term concerns always trump long term planning.

Man, Mark Penn is like the Bryant "Big Country" Reeves of political consulting.

Come on, Reeves got OSU to the Final Four. What has Penn done?

This line from Wikipedia sounds ominous

He has been a key adviser to Bill Gates and Microsoft since the late 1990s

Which also has Mark Schmitt's piece on him.

The conventional wisdom is that Clinton is a very smart politicain. I don't think she is. She is a very smart person, but politically not so much. Lok at the track record: when thhe Republicans were strong annd she ws waiting in the winngs, hoping tfor a chance to run for Presidennt, she voted over and over and over to eithher support the righhtwing or to compromise with thhe rightwing. Why? Because shhe didnn't wwant a voting record that the righht couuld attack. That seemed smart whhen shhe was voting to Iraq or that stupid flag law or the iran Resolution, but turns out that in thhe lonng run it wasn't smart. She wouuld have thhe nomination ssewnn up now if shhe hhad voted like a real Deomcrat back when
we needed her.

Another example: in the 2004campaing I kept getting fudraising letteres from her. Partly this pissed me off ecause it was so selfishh for her to be competing for dallars when people like Eric Massainn upstate New York needed donor money more, but the re real pisser was her list of issues. Every mailing she sennt me asked me which of a list of issuues was most important and IRAQ WASN'T ON THE LIST. So eery time I wrote back,"I am not going to give money to a politicain who is so inept that shhe cann't recognize the most significant issue in this race."

I canthink of more examples but I have to go work now.

What Charley said. Since I expected this to be over on Super Tuesday I'm not really surprised they did too. (Of course, I'm not getting paid millions of dollars for my deep knowledge of the popular mood).

The one thing that does look sloppy to me is the apparent lack of organization in all of those caucus states on Super Tues. Her Cali. organization was apparently much better than his. But if you're going to be delivering a knockout blow, & delegates are proportionately, you'd best pay attention to as many states as possible.

I also am not surprised Mark Penn, with his "Microtrends" & all, underestimated Obama. No one likes to slice & dice the electorate more than Penn, & it's kind of the opposite of Obama's whole strategy.

He has been a key adviser to Bill Gates and Microsoft since the late 1990s

Wow, that inspires confidence. The potential analogies boggle the mind.

Real fast two mmore: the Rove tactics which backfired in Georgia, her 50% plus one strategy for winning the general election, which, as she should have noticed, didn't work all that well in 2000 or 2004.

Katherine: I'm fine with thinking that things would be over on Super Tuesday. What puzzles me is not planning for the possibility that they wouldn't be.

So, Hilary=Vista? She's doomed.

The Hilary campaign should have found it easy to organist in those states by just relying on the traditional Democratic Party machinery

I think that Sen. Clinton did organize by relying on the Democratic Party machinery, the levers of which she felt she had securely in hand. I think that she and many of her supporters expected to win it in a walk because so many of the powerful and influential members of the Dem elite, especially in the DLC, assured her of their support, and because the machine backed her. I think she and her campaign have always thought that they had a lock, that the situation was under control.

Control is an illusion.

Sen. Obama is not playing the same game. I expect him to pick up all the chips at the end, and I think that this election is the end of a timid, sclerotic, and election-losing Democratic Party leadership that has set the rules and the expectations since the 1980s, and whose eventual downfall was first signalled by Howard Dean.

From your keyboard to God's eyes Joel.

Let me amplify those last remarks just a little, by repeating something I posted yesterday in one of Kevin Drum's comment threads:

All of us here in blogtopia* know firsthand the way that a participatory medium changes what's known, and how information is spread. Traditional MSM are one-way transmissions that privilege the voices of a few reporters, columnists, pundits, spokesmen; the net is a democracy of voices in which Blue Gal or Kos or Atrios can be more influential than Chris Matthews or Rush.

It seems to me that Sen. Clinton and her advisors are running a campaign that relies primarily on the top-down one-way media model that prevailed during the years that they learned their political chops.

Sen. Obama's "ground game" -- his retail-politics grassroots organizing, his appearances in small venues, his viral video ads -- show an awareness that the one-way model no longer obtains.

Said more shortly:
Sen. Clinton is running a very skillful model-1990 campaign.
Sen. Obama is running a masterful model-2008 campaign.

*AYSDITT

The Super Tuesday cockiness reminds me a whole lot of a president who went to war without a plan to win the peace. Did she expect the Democratic party to greet her with roses?

So, Hilary=Vista? She's doomed.

Is there a downgrade program to the last version of the Clinton install? That one seemed to work for me.

whose eventual downfall was first signalled by Howard Dean.

The rest of the hyperbole there notwithstanding, this can't be emphasized enough. Dean laid out this gameplan, and Obama executed on it.

In retrospect, we've actually been lucky, in a way. I think Dean's clearly exceeded expectations as DNC chair (remember how he was supposed to destroy the party?), and he cleared the way for the victories in '06 and (hopefully) in '08. He also paved the way for the strategy Obama's following, which will have a positive effect on our future primaries, I feel, regardless of whether he wins the nomination.

And while I'd be thrilled if Obama wins, even if it goes to Hillary (and assuming we avoid a convention meltdown), the next Democratic President will be much more effective than they would have been without Dean. Frankly, we were just utterly worthless as a party for the better part of this decade (at least). There's a lot left to do, but I feel like we've made more substantive, lasting progress in the last 3 years than we did in... well, many years before that. :)

Why? Because shhe didnn't wwant a voting record that the righht couuld attack. That seemed smart whhen shhe was voting to Iraq or that stupid flag law or the iran Resolution, but turns out that in thhe lonng run it wasn't smart. She wouuld have thhe nomination ssewnn up now if shhe hhad voted like a real Deomcrat back when
we needed her.

You mean 'present'? Or by pushing the wrong button when it is politically more convenient?

(if it *is* Barack who will be the nominee, these are the things they will attack on)

One of the creepier things I’ve heard lately is Obama’s platform to give each and every college student $4000 per year and require community service in exchange for the money [victory speech in Virginia].

What if I want to turn down the government college money and make my own college money selling Bratwursts at a stand or fixing cars? After paying my taxes, what if I prefer to spend my spare time smoking cigarettes and drinking beer?

Adam, that's yet another reason I worry about having Clinton as the nominee. If she wins, we may be getting the return of Terry McAuliffe as DNC chair to undo the good that Dean has done.

Obituary of a Virginia politician:

Mitchell Van Yahres, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, who died Friday, February 8, 2008, in Charlottesville, aged 81, tended trees for a living and people for a lifetime. [...]

His friends, who nearly included everyone who met him, are asked, in lieu of expenditures on flowers and the like, to make a healthy and significant contribution to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama or, if they insist, the charity of their choice.

mad props to Dean.

now what can he do about that limp, spineless Reid ?

Adam, that's yet another reason I worry about having Clinton as the nominee. If she wins, we may be getting the return of Terry McAuliffe as DNC chair to undo the good that Dean has done.

I'm less worried about that at this point, actually. The Clinton shoot-the-moon strategy at this point is to win Ohio and Texas, and then lobby for the superdelegates. It seems to me that since she pretty much can't do that without Dean's support, he'll have her so deep in his pocket she won't even be allowed to think the name "McAuliffe" for the next few years.

now what can he do about that limp, spineless Reid?

I'm not convinced that Reid's spineless -- he's showed some backbone on more than a few occasions. I think he's just kind of an idiot, and politically clueless.

As far as I can tell, he picks his battles with a dartboard. For the life of me, I can't find a pattern in any of it. He might be a decent Senate leader -- he just needs Obama or Clinton, someone, anyone, telling him what to do.

If I'm wrong and he really is as useless and many people seem to think, I'd bet that under a Democratic Administration he'd be majority leader in name only. The main question is just whether we can win the Presidency. If we lose, Reid remains a problem that we have to deal with somehow. If we win, he's a non-issue.

I think much of the same logic applies to Pelosi, just like it applies to a lot of the Democratic Party. They're politically inept. They need guidance from somewhere.

Bill, I didn't hear the speech in Virginia, but the website says:
"Obama will establish a new American Opportunity Tax Credit that [is] worth $4,000 a year in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year." http://www.barackobama.com/issues/service/

I read this as, if you want the increased tax credit (for your parents), you put in the 100 hours first. I am fairly sure "every" meant "every one who wants to," given that this is the same candidate who doesn't want to require individuals to buy health insurance. If you can make $40/hour in college, go for it.

Continuing on Wonkie's point:

The scuttlebutt on Clinton is that she is AMAZING in person. Warm, incredibly smart, and genuine. I get this from multiple sources - Elizabeth Warren, Sam Brownback (Clinton is in his prayer circle!), and her huge lead with superdelegates. It was pretty apparent in those "conversation" videos she kicked off her campaign with.

OTOH, in leading and inspiring a political movement she is mediocre for a politician of her level. Her speeches have always been kind of blah - and this was an issue even before Obama, an amazing orator, became the Next Great Multiracial Hope. In 7 years in the Senate she hasn't gotten on top of even one substantial issue. She does little things like improving medical electronic records and compromises like her flagburning law. There's an important role for tweaks like that but if you want to lead you've got to stand for something substantial.

She tried to do that with healthcare but the problem is that her plan is extremely mainstream Democrat now - nothing exceptional. Plus, where had she been the prior 6 years? Kerry even knew how to push an issue (Iraq withdrawal) when it was purely symbolic. Clinton just doesn't seem to "get" the importance of symbolism and purpose when dealing with voters. When you can't inspire as well as Kerry, you've got a problem.

So my verdict on Clinton is a great politician dealing with other politicians, a mediocre one dealing with the public (at least by the standards of a presidential contender.) She'd still have been good enough to get the nomination with her institutional/funding advantages but it was her bad luck to end up competing with an incredible politician like Obama, who seems to be good or great on everything- inspiring, dealing, organizing, and fundraising.

Did I miss the Previous Great Multiracial Hope?

Maybe it was FDR, who was Dutch and French.

Is it just me or do Hillary's backers, especially the high level ones, seem to have the ability and inclination to sabotage Obama's chances in the general election were he to win the primary in the hopes that Clinton would easily win in 2012? Or at least, that they are far more likely to do so than Obama's supports?

Maybe it's just me.

Did I miss the Previous Great Multiracial Hope?

Depending on who you believe, Warren G. Harding and/or Calvin Coolidge could qualify.

"The Clinton shoot-the-moon strategy at this point is to win Ohio and Texas, and then lobby for the superdelegates. It seems to me that since she pretty much can't do that without Dean's support, he'll have her so deep in his pocket she won't even be allowed to think the name 'McAuliffe' for the next few years."

I don't follow that. It seems to presuppose that somehow the chair of the DNC has some sort of influence or power over the superdelegates that Clinton doesn't have, and I'm unaware of any provision in the DNC rules that would give him relevant power. What clause or power or influence or condition are you referring to, Adam? Cite?

Loosely speaking, unbound PLEOs are just that, unbound, save for any personal feelings of obligation. The chair of the DNC has no power by rule to influence their convention vote that I'm aware of, and I really can't think of all that much unofficial power the office has, either, other than whether or not to direct more attention to your state, which isn't all that significant, nor apt to change all that much just to respond to an individual PLEO. But maybe I'm missing something?

Regarding Mark Penn: The Department of Justice had Microsoft dead and on the mat. If you read the finding of fact (which I am NOT recommending btw,) there was basically no argument but that MS was guilty of multiple illegal anti-competitive actions. Many of these actions were after Reno's consent decree, which was nothing more than a statement that the DOJ was onto MS, and would prosecute if MS did not clean up their act. Bush walked in, and threw out the MS case. There was no outrage. On one occasion I brought up the illegality of MS's behavior, and the likely costs to society that this behavior implied, and met the response "They certainly have an aggressive business strategy." (Said with admiration.) Yeah, well so do most muggers. Anyway, the point is, the public's non-response seemed to me to be a result of MS's public relations efforts. So I think that Mark Penn has demonstrated some ability.

On a seperate issue: what I found funniest about the post was the following memory. Back during Bill Clinton's first campaign, I remember the suggestion that Clinton had snuck into the Democratic nomination because all the strong candidates were too smart to go up against the unbeatable Bush.

Jack

Maybe it's just me.

It's just you. The odds of Clinton getting traction on health care during an Obama administration (especially with a D Congress with expanded majorities) are excellent. During a McCain administration, not so much. One assumes that someone involved with the Hillary campaign at a high level actually gives a crap about policy issues- and in all likelihood, liked Obama's speech in 2004 and recognizes he's a talented dude, if not their first choice.

I think the idea that Hillary backers would put it in the tank for McCain on the off chance she could pull it off in 2012 against an incumbent Republican are about zero. Hell, she's 60. She might not be ALIVE in 2012.

Ara: No, in fact, Bush Jr. ran a tighter ship.

No one's ever seriously criticized W's campaign skills. It's the one thing he does well.

Nell: I don't know if I'd say that. He needed the supremes to bail him out in '00 and won 51% of the popular vote as an incumbent, which is I think the lowest margin of victory for re-election in presidential history.

"Hell, she's 60. She might not be ALIVE in 2012."

The odds that you're in college would seem to have just dramatically risen. (They went down as soon as I wrote this.)

I'm reminded of the exchange in War Games about Professor Falken, between high school students Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick, which paraphrase: "He's dead." "Really? He wasn't that old." "He was 41." "Oh, that's old."

Hillary is 60, so she's likely not to be alive in four years? Uh, okay. That's old.

"No one's ever seriously criticized W's campaign skills."

The campaign that made the decisions it did on California, and lost the state? That lost the popular vote in 2000? I'm afraid I've read plenty of such criticism.

On October 31, 2000, one week before the election, Bush was spending his time campaigning in California. If he'd gone to Florida he might have been able to win fair and square rather than depending on the luck of a bad butterfly ballot design or Supreme Court justices willing to chuck out their principles for partisan purposes.

"He's dead." "Really? He wasn't that old." "He was 41." "Oh, that's old."

Not all wrong. I recall this from Catch-22:

"Nately's dead."
"He wasn't old."
"He's dead. You don't get any older than that."

If anyone is interested, here is a pretty amazing analysis of Texas, senate district by senate district. Apparently, Texas has no at large delegates at stake in the primary (I'm not clear how the caucus part works, whether that's at large or senate district by senate district). The analysis, which seems fairly conservative, suggests a very narrow lead for Clinton in the district by district, primary part of the election. If Obama can do well in the caucus part, he can easily get more delegates out of Texas, even if Clinton wins the primary itself.

I find it harder and harder to see how Clinton pulls this out. She is going to be down by over 100 pledged delegates going into March 4, and it's hard to see how Texas, even if she wins it, gives her more than a handful. I don't see why we should expect a Clinton blowout in Ohio, either. Even if she wins both of them, Obama could still be up something like 80, and should easily make up whatever he loses (if anything) on March 4 with big wins in Wyoming on March 8 and Mississippi on March 11.

That means Clinton is still going to be about 100 pledged delegates down going into Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania only has 158 pledged delegates. Even if she wins 60% of them (which would be a landslide), she ends up with 96-62 - only +34, and is still down by a considerable amount in the delegate count. Probably she does way worse than that. The next two states, Indiana and North Carolina, don't help her much. She should win West Virginia and Kentucky, but Oregon doesn't look good for her, and Obama easily sweeps South Dakota and Montana.

So it looks like Michael Barone and Marc Ambinder's

Suppose Clinton scores solid wins on big turnouts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Now imagine you're a superdelegate whose prime concern is winning in November. How would you be inclined to vote?

Might you argue that Obama'a southern wins, maybe including Texas, are nice, but he's not going to carry those states anyway. That popularity in OH and PA is more likely to bring victory in November than popularity in SC?

Ack, cut off! Basically, I was pointing to Ambinder's ridiculous post (can't be bothered to find it) linking to Michael Barone's even more ridiculous post claiming that Puerto Rico is some kind of totalitarian police state where party bosses get to choose who the delegation is, and saying that seems to be Clinton's only hope to win the pledged delegates.

I continued by noting that I think Clinton is done - the math is just really really hard for her. And that no wonder she keeps going on about Michigan and Florida and superdelegates, because winning dirty is about the only option for her now.

"On October 31, 2000, one week before the election, Bush was spending his time campaigning in California."

This was my point -- it wasn't a sensible campaign decision, and most professionals condemned it as such, thus producing the criticism I was referring to; apologies I wasn't clearer.

It's not clear to me how to use the results of Democratic primaries as evidence for how candidates will perform in those states in the general election.

There's a lot of silliness going around about how Obama had surprising wins in red states, but of course some Democrat always wins the Democratic primary, even in red states. Obama is not going to take Utah in the general.

Similarly, who cares how well Clinton does in New York and other blue state primaries? Either Democrat will win those states.

The argument might make more sense for swing states, but even there it seems to me that what you care about is how the people who aren't voting in the Democratic primaries will vote in the general, especially if the primary is closed, like Pennsylvania's.

"(I'm not clear how the caucus part works, whether that's at large or senate district by senate district)"

CQ re the 228 delegates of Texas:

193 are pledged and 35 are unpledged. Of the 193 pledged delegates, 126 are district-level, 42 are at-large and 25 are PLEOS. Of the 35 unpledged delegates, 32 are PLEOs and 3 are add-ons.

Precinct conventions will be held March 4, 2008, after the primary election, to select delegates to county conventions. Those who voted in the Democratic primary election can participate in the precinct conventions.

It also appears that:
[...] The Texas Delegate Selection Plan, which was approved by the Democratic National Committee, allots positions for 54 African-Americans, 9 Asian-Americans, 72 Hispanics and one Native American. Additionally, 82 delegate positions will be reserved for the disabled, youth, and GLBT communities of Texas.
Unofficial explanation here:
[...] "Texas arguably has the most arcane system in the country," said state Rep. Juan Garcia, D-Corpus Christi, an Obama backer.

[...]

he last time the Texas Democratic convention delegation was at stake in the midst of a national fight was in 1988, when Michael Dukakis, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Richard Gephardt and Gary Hart battled it out.

Dukakis won the statewide primary with 33 percent of the vote, followed by Jackson at 25 percent, Gore at 20 percent and Gephardt at 14 percent.

Despite Dukakis' clear plurality victory, he split the state's delegates almost evenly with Jackson because of the Texas primary and caucus system. Dukakis took 72 delegates, Jackson 67. Forty-four were uncommitted.

"In '88, Jesse Jackson paid attention to the caucus process and had grass-roots organizers. Dukakis did not pay attention to the caucus process, and that's why he got out slightly maneuvered in the caucus process," said Garry Mauro, a former state land commissioner and Hillary Clinton supporter.

Put on your thinking cap. Here's a short version of how the Texas Democratic nominating process works. The party rules are 11 pages long.

A total of 126 delegates will be awarded based on the outcome of the vote in each of the 31 state senatorial districts.

But the number of delegates available in each district is not equal: Delegates are allocated based on the votes cast in districts in the 2004 and 2006 presidential and gubernatorial elections.

Fewer S. Texas delegates

In the heavily urban, African-American districts of state Sens. Rodney Ellis of Houston and Royce West of Dallas, a good voter turnout in the past two elections means a combined total of 13 delegates are at stake in the two districts on Election Day.

Obama nationally has been winning eight out of 10 black voters, according to network exit polls.

But in the heavily Hispanic districts of state Sens. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen and Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, election turnout was low, and a combined total of seven delegates are at stake.

Clinton has been taking six of 10 Hispanic votes nationally.

So, a big South Texas win might not mean as much for Clinton as a big win for Obama in the two black districts.

Three East Texas senatorial districts held by Republicans also could be fertile ground for both candidates.

The districts each have more than 250,000 voting-age African-Americans who might benefit Obama.

But Mauro noted that the Democratic voting population of East Texas is aging and that older voters tend to favor Clinton.

In the state senatorial district housing the University of Texas, where volunteers put together a 20,000-person rally for Obama last year, eight delegates are at stake in the primary election.

Not all decided by primary
Now, here's the really confusing part of the Democratic Party's process:

An additional 42 at-large delegates are awarded at the state convention in June.

Those delegates are pledged to individual candidates based on participation that begins in precinct caucuses on election night and ends in senatorial district caucuses at the state convention.

The state convention also elects 35 superdelegates and an additional 25 pledged-party and elected-official delegates.

Garcia, the state representative and Obama supporter, said his candidate is bringing in the staffers who helped win the Iowa caucuses, knowing that not all is decided in the primary election.

"We're trying to be as savvy as possible in this primary-caucus process," Garcia said.

Mauro, the Clinton supporter, said Obama likes to talk about being a political organizer in Chicago.

But, Mauro said, when Clinton was Obama's age, she was organizing Texas for the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern.

"There are a lot of people who have long relationships with Hillary in Texas and are motivated," he said.

Formal rules here. HTH.

Gary, I was the one being unclear. I was really responding to Nell, following dbt's response, not criticizing your comment at all. In fact, I'm not sure I saw yours before posting mine.

I don't follow that. It seems to presuppose that somehow the chair of the DNC has some sort of influence or power over the superdelegates that Clinton doesn't have, and I'm unaware of any provision in the DNC rules that would give him relevant power. What clause or power or influence or condition are you referring to, Adam? Cite?

Well, the DNC does supervise the convention, set the primary/caucus rules, etc. There's plenty of back-room stuff going on, particularly with the Michigan and Florida issues looming. Honestly, I don't know that Dean can make-or-break Clinton's strategy, but I imagine that he can make it really, really difficult. And I don't think that Terry McAuliffe is so important to her that she wouldn't at least try to offer that particular carrot to Dean. It'd be foolish not to.

"Honestly, I don't know that Dean can make-or-break Clinton's strategy, but I imagine that he can make it really, really difficult."

I've greatly enjoyed and respect your recent prolific contributions to ObWi, Adam, and think you're a welcome and admirable addition to the crew.

But your response here seems to be "it's what I imagine, and I have nothing whatever to point to beyond that."

I think if you look into the DNC structure and rules, you'll find that Howard Dean has little to no influence or ability to pressure any superdelegates in any way.

On top of that, he's going to be out of a job when the nominee is selected, unless the nominee loves him and wants him to continue (unlikely, though not inconceivable; but party leaders tend to want their own person there).

It's the nominee who becomes the party leader, and who picks the head of the DNC via pressure on their delegates, not vice versa. The DNC itself are all superdelegates, and they tell Dean what to do, not vice versa; he's elected by their votes; he doesn't appoint them. He doesn't get to tell them what to do. The DNC is all 50 state chairs, plus the 50 vice-chairs, plus 200 apportioned members. Howard Dean needs their support more than vice versa, especially as a lame duck. What's he going to do, threaten to not devote DNC assets to their state in November? And muster a majority support of the DNC to do that?

But if you do find evidence that I'm wrong, certainly do bring it forward.

I've greatly enjoyed and respect your recent prolific contributions to ObWi, Adam, and think you're a welcome and admirable addition to the crew.

But your response here seems to be "it's what I imagine, and I have nothing whatever to point to beyond that."

I think if you look into the DNC structure and rules, you'll find that Howard Dean has little to no influence or ability to pressure any superdelegates in any way.

I appreciate the softening of the blow, :) and I'll certainly defer to you on this one. I say "imagine" because, well... I've never been in the smoke-filled rooms. I don't know if you have. I'd love to know more -- like if they do the Bill Hicks scene, for example.

I'm still not convinced, though, because I wasn't really thinking of the Convention. Just to prove that I wasn't making it up, here was my train of thought:

My starting point was that a few days ago Dean was the one who brought up the possible need to work out some sort of deal beforehand to avoid a brokered convention. I read that as a shot across the bow -- what I was envisioning is that Dean would call everyone to the table sometime before the convention to decide (a) Michigan and Florida, and (b) whether to try and make a deal with the superdelegates to go with the whoever has more pledged delegates, among other things.

(I was under the impression that the chair had the parliamentary power to call meetings, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it seems to me that he could force the issue, and he'd certainly have a good argument that it's important to start the discussion now rather than in the middle of the convention.)

So depending on the timing, that could end up being really bad or good for the Clinton campaign. Forcing their hand on those issues before Ohio and Texas (since all the inside baseball has indicated that Clinton is planning on making the superdelegate pitch after that) and while Obama has momentum wouldn't turn out well for them, I think.

The other consideration I had in mind was that I wasn't really weighing Dean as trying to save his job -- in fact, I'm not convinced he cares about that too much. But I do get the impression that he's not a huge Clinton fan. :) I also think that he cares about how the DNC is run. And I'm almost positive he doesn't like Terry McAuliffe. :D

Again, I grant that this is a bit conjectural, but the bottom line is that given the precarious state of Clinton's campaign, I think she'll tread lightly around Dean. He can have an effect, and the little things matter right now -- I just don't think that KC has much to be worried about: at this moment, pushing McAuliffe into the DNC can't be a higher priority for Clinton that cutting a deal with Dean. She has to win before McAuliffe is even an issue, so if Dean presses her on it before March 4th, I don't see any logical option for Clinton besides appeasement. The upside is too small, the downside too big.

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