Friday, May 16, 2008

What Went Wrong for Hillary?

In a word--Hubris. But Michelle Cottle of The New Republic asked, anonymously, some of Hillary's advisors and others, the response were interesting.

Some of the operational problems relate to problems I have noted a number of times before with her fundraising operation: "There were a number of people who advised the Clinton campaign back in the spring of '07 that this could easily become a longer battle--a war of attrition. She needed to build a broad base of supporters beyond the virtually limitless number of Clinton friends and supporters who they counted on to not only max out, but to use their not inconsiderable Rolodexes to help her. That would have been fine if this thing had ended Super Tuesday. It didn't, and she ran out of money."

"There was financial mismanagement bordering on fraud. A candidate who raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the years had to pump in millions more of her own money to stave off bankruptcy."

"If you have no cash because you totally mismanaged the budget, you have no money to go up on TV; you're getting crushed on TV and in direct mail because Obama has so much more money--that is a huge problem. Who was looking at the money? The financial situation was a disaster.
The primary did become a war of attrition, a war that Hillary couldn't win.

See, Hillary's campaign was based upon the notion that she would storm through to the nomination by Feb. 12 at the latest. When that didn't happen, her operation was stuck, unable to pivot into crisis mode. This reminded me of a great line from Tom Hanks' From the Earth to the Moon miniseries on HBO. During the congressional investigation into the Apollo I fire, one Senator asked Col. Frank Borman (the astronaut that headed teh NASA inquiry, what went wrong. Borman replied that "it was a failure of imagination." NASA and the engineers who designed the Apollo spacecraft simply never imagined an accident such as one that occured.

In many respects, the quotes that Cottle collected demonstrate the same lack of imagination in the Clinton camp. While the scale of the Obama surge may have caught them by surprise, the fact that there was not even a basic plan somewhere to build from is ludicrous. No campaign for the presidence should be premised on the idea of inevitability. Other failings also point to a lack of imagination or even a simple lack of objectivity. There seemed to be no one around to say NO to Clinton and Mark Penn (who probably needs to should a fair amount of blame).

Ultimate every failure has to begin and end with Hillary Clinton. The old adage of "if you are dumb surround yourself with smart people and if you are smart, surround yourself with smart people that disagree with you." certainly didn't make to Hillary Clinton's desk. The failure of her campaign is merely her failure writ large.

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