So foregone is the conclusion in New Hampshire’s Democrat primary, where Bernie Sanders is averaging a 13-point lead over Hillary Clinton in the polls, that word is already leaking from Clintonworld about a post-drubbing staff shakeup.
Politico quotes “a half-dozen people with direct knowledge of the situation” who say that Hillary (and Bill) are ready to change personnel and strategies.
“The Clintons are not happy, and have been letting all of us know that,” said one source. “The idea is that we need a more forward-looking message, for the primary – but also for the general election too… There’s no sense of panic, but there is an urgency to fix these problems right now.”
Although some insiders said the Clintons were more likely to bring in new people and re-assign existing staffers than send heads rolling, it is also said that the Clintons “have become increasingly caustic in their criticism of aides,” which raises warning flags for anyone familiar with the tales of Hillary’s angry outbursts in Bill’s White House. There have been recent stories suggesting she hasn’t mellowed much since the Nineties.
Another of Politico’s sources, described as a “former Obama 2008 aide,” dropped a rather brutal assessment of Hillary Clinton that neatly captures the sense of resignation, rather than enthusiasm, surrounding her candidacy: “Look, she going to be the nominee, but she’s not going to get any style points and if she isn’t careful she is going to be a wounded nominee. And they better worked this s**t out fast because who ever the Republicans pick is going to be 29 times tougher than Bernie.”
That’s an interesting way to put it, because it’s plainly obvious that Bernie Sanders isn’t really trying to win the Democratic nomination.
He backs off from serious attacks that would inflict real damage on Clinton, giving her a complete pass on her national-security scandal, and only recently making a little noise about all that money she’s been raking in from Wall Street interests. Even there, Sanders has pulled back, refusing to personally call for Clinton to release the transcripts of those speeches bankers paid outrageous sums to hear.
If anything, Clinton has hit Sanders harder than the reverse, as his poll numbers climbed. Bill Clinton is out there accusing Sanders supporters of launching “sexist” attacks on his wife and her supporters. Sanders could demolish the Clintons by remarking on the absurdity of a disgraced serial sexual harasser lobbing sexism allegations around – his young supporters don’t seem inclined to join older liberals in giving Bill Clinton a free pass for his misconduct – but Sanders doesn’t seem inclined to throw that kind of punch.
Sanders is doing well almost in spite of himself, and Clintonworld has got to be nervous that he might decide to step on the gas and make a real effort at winning the Democrat primary.
Politico’s sources paint a picture of a disorganized Clinton campaign suffering from too many long-time Clinton cronies giving her advice, to the frustration of her nominal campaign management. There are complaints about muddled messaging, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that Clinton has “re-invented” herself and essentially re-launched her campaign several times. She’s had trouble coming up with a rationale for her candidacy beyond It’s my turn to be President, I’m owed this job because of all I put up with, and have I reminded you lately that I would be The First Woman President?
The degree to which Clinton and her surrogates on the identity-politics appeal is a reliable indicator that she’s having trouble making anything else stick. Over the weekend, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright literally told young women they would go to Hell for not supporting Clinton’s candidacy, while feminist icon Gloria Steinem mused that young girls are only supporting Sanders over Clinton because they’re hot for all the college guys they see at Sanders rallies. Unsurprisingly, neither of these appeals seemed to go over very well with the Sanders crowd.
Obviously, Clintonworld is rattled by her near-death experience in Iowa, which left her campaign scrambling to spin a nearly undetectable lead over Sanders as a “victory.” Everyone outside Clinton’s orbit is marveling at how Sanders erased a fifty-point polling deficit to achieve that tie… and wondering if thumbs were strategically applied to a few scales at the last minute to deprive Sanders of “Bernie Wins Iowa!” headlines that might have blown a hole in the S.S. Hillary at the waterline.
Politico relates the tale of a “mad rush to declare victory before Sanders took the stage to declare the contest a draw” on the night of the Iowa caucuses. This explains the weird, disjointed, angry speech Clinton delivered, with family members and campaign operatives looking dazed and confused behind her – she was acting in haste to head Sanders off at the pass. He should have seen it coming and rushed out even sooner to announce a tie, but the timing on these things is measured in minutes.
Another interesting tidbit from Clinton campaign sources is that her campaign chairman, John Podesta, advised her to handle the email scandal by apologizing immediately and handing over her server, but she refused, and later blamed her staff for not being able to handle the controversy better. Everything Clinton has done throughout the email scandal reinforces the impression of an arrogant aristocrat who never thought these piddling national-security rules would apply to her.
She’s also a big believer in the Obama scandal protocols, which dictate that stories can be killed by dragging them out forever, resisting disclosure every step of the way, until friendly media can declare the scandal “old news.” In Clinton’s case, that strategy dumped her email mess right into the middle of a primary where she didn’t think she would face any serious competition.
Sanders is now virtually tied with Clinton in national polling, erasing a 31-point lead Clinton enjoyed only a few months ago. The same polls show Sanders running better against most of the potential Republican candidates than Clinton does.
The last-ditch strategy her campaign insiders discussed with Politico was to portray her as a “fighter” ready to go to the mat for Democrat constituencies. That sounds like one of the most difficult strategies to pursue against Sanders, given his reputation for sincerity and pugnacity… and Clinton’s history of enriching herself to a fabulous degree by selling access to big-money interests. She’s basically thrusting her glass jaw at Sanders, and daring him to punch it.