Wednesday, February 13, 2008

more on Clinton campaign strategy

I'll say it again: Mark Penn should be fired yesterday. Clinton is an intelligent, deeply knowledgeable, popular Democratic politician married to a wildly popular Democratic president, who is supported by the party establishment and, until recently, was swimming in cash and flying high in the polls. How does she end up having to pick herself up off the floor for the second time in this primary?

She nearly lost the whole match after Iowa and is now likely to lose 10 primaries in a row, and all by at least 19 points. How could this happen?

2 reasons:

1. the inevitability angle: This is a weak argument to base a campaign on, it has a "glass jaw" as Kos says, because it's so easily discredited. You only have to lose one contest to lose this argument. It was particularly foolish for the Clinton campaign because the very first contest in the whole damn schedule was Iowa, where at no point was she consistently ahead in the polls.

Thus, when Obama pulled off a surprisingly substantial win there (though really not that huge, comparatively speaking-- 8%), her entire campaign was endangered and the press started talking up the likelihood of a Kerry-esque Obama sweep. And the polls reflected that until she got lucky with a tearful moment that got such unfair and even misogynistic coverage by the press that late deciders rallied to her. Make no mistake, it was lucky: had Clinton scored 3 percentage points less, or had 1.5% of her voters gone with Obama instead, Obama would've carried the state and, in all likelihood, would have KO'ed Hillary by Super Tuesday.

2. the big state strategy: what was surprising about Super Tuesday was not that Clinton carried CA, NY, and MA--she was supposed to carry those and was leading huge in all of them a week before the primaries-- but how poorly she fared almost everywhere else in the country. The most favorable estimates had Obama winning 10 states out of 22 and hanging within 100 delegates of Clinton; not only did he win 14, but he actually edged out Clinton by about half a dozen delegates. The problem for Clinton wasn't that she lost more states, because they're all proportionally allocated. The problem is that in 8 of the states she wasn't even competitive, allowing Obama to garner over 60% of the vote (in 2 cases over 70%). That's a telltale sign that Clinton ceded those states to Obama and relied on the big 3 to give her overwhelming delegate counts. That would have happened had she not allowed Obama to nickel and dime her to death everywhere else in the country.

Needless to say, Hillary's not done yet, but given her advantages, she should've had this in the bag by now.

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