Saturday, January 5, 2008

Did I Say In Over His Head? I Meant His Head Is On The Chopping Block

Donors and getting squeamish and people are calling for Penn's head:

[I]nternally, a round of recriminations is being aimed at her chief strategist, Mark Penn, as the representative of everything about her pseudo-incumbent campaign that has been too cautious, too arrogant, too conventional and too clueless as to how much the political landscape has shifted since the last Clinton reign. One adviser summed up the biggest challenge that faces the campaign in two words: "Fresh thinking."

Specifically, those inside the campaign and outside advisers fault Penn for failing to see the Iowa defeat coming. They say he was assuring Clinton and her allies right up until the caucuses that they would win it. Says one: "He did not predict in any way, shape or form the tidal wave we saw." In particular, he had assured them that Clinton's support among women would carry her through. Yet she managed to win only 30% of the women's vote, while 35% of them went for Obama.

Oddly enough, the criticism has been around since the point of the campaign when Hillary was well ahead in the polls:

There are senior officials within the campaign — notably, outside advisers say, media consultant Mandy Grunwald and adviser Harold Ickes — who have been worried for months that Clinton was missing the fundamental shift in the electorate. However, their entreaties have gone nowhere.

Jane Hamsher argues that there is a fundamental personality disparity between Hillary and Penn that makes their relationship untenable for long term success...

And no one seems to care for the way Hillary burnt her bridges in Iowa on the way out or how she appears to be looking to scorch more earth in the days to come:

You gotta say this for the Clinton team's strategy: it's different. Instead of asking for votes they've been battering the electorate, telling voters that if they don't like their candidate it's their shortcoming, not hers. Idealism is for losers, and the more you dare to hope the more we'll crush your dreams with negativity. With Mark Penn's 'incumbent' strategy in ruins, last night looked like an opportunity to change her direction by unshackling herself from bad advisors and appealing to voters one-on-one.

That was then, this is now. She could have taken this opportunity to fire Penn and shake herself loose from James Carville and the other weathered barnacles clinging to the hull of her campaign. "I did it the consultants' way," she could have said, "now I'm going to be me." Instead it looks like she's sticking with the old team and their ugly ways. Penn wasted no time telling a group of reporters that their campaign's going to get even nastier as they try to rough up Obama some more.

So far Clinton's campaign events in New Hampshire have been going great, but:

But there are two problems. It was never Hillary Clinton's campaign events that turned people off. At Obama and Edwards events in Iowa, voters explained their opposition to Clinton by pointing to her vote with the White House to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization; or the fact that her campaign had gone negative (the attack on Obama's kindergarten essay and the insinuations of drug-dealing were frequently cited); or the fact that she had embraced Rupert Murdoch after the media magnate spent years tearing into her family. Whatever the reason, it almost always had to do with her past actions or the behavior of her campaign. There's no performance Clinton can put on at these question and answer events that is going to counter that.

The other problem is that this new strategy includes no new message that will inspire people. It introduces no new ideas or principles that undecided voters can identify with from afar. They have to come to her events to see how impressive she is. And even if Hillary Clinton converts every single person at these question and answer sessions, the most people she can reach is 1,000 to 1,500 per day. With election day on Tuesday of next week, she's going to have to do better than that.

(emphases added)

So long as she plays this out as a game of numbers, like a pollster would, she's never going to correct the second problem. Hillary understands that it takes logic, reason and composure to govern, but what the rest of the voting population needs to see from her is the fire and emotion is actually takes to lead.

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