I just read through Joshua Green’s article on Hillary Clinton’s collapse in the Atlantic, which was based on internal memos and accounts of campaign staff, and a few things struck me.
Though Clinton focused much of her campaign around the claim that she was “ready to lead from day one,” the piece exposes her managerial incompetence and inability to make key decisions or to institute a clear chain of command among her bikering staff. She couldn’t figure out whether she wanted to run a positive campaign that tried to soften her image, or to agressively take down Obama.
Green offers this account of a post-Iowa conference call:
Mustering enthusiasm, Clinton declared that the campaign was mistaken not to have competed harder for the youth vote and that-overruling her New Hampshire staff-she would take questions at town-hall meetings designed to draw comparative,” but not negative, contrasts with Obama. Hearing little response, Clinton began to grow angry, according to a participant’s notes. She complained of being outmaneuvered in Iowa and being painted as the establishment candidate. The race, she insisted, now had “three front-runners.” More silence ensued. “This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself,” she snapped, and hung up.
In the grim days of March, Green writes:
In a sense, a lot of this is a useless exercise, because no matter what the strategy she employed, I’m not sure that Clinton could have taken down Obama, given his tremendous political talents and the fact that he was really tapping into what Democrats were feeling in this cycle. His initial opposition to the Iraq War and her vote for the war was just an absolute killer in Iowa. And Obama’s coalition of upper class whites, young voters, and blacks was something we’ve never seen before in Democratic primaries.
With that said, I wonder if Clinton would have been a lot better off had she collapsed earlier, like McCain did last summer. That would have enabled her to refocus her message, adjust her strategy, and reshuffle her staff with plenty of time to recover. As it turned out, by the time the campaign realized she was in trouble, it was too late.