Hillary Campaign Denies Report of Campaign Shake-up After New Hampshire

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Monday, Hillary Clinton and her campaign denied reports of a looming campaign shake-up after her expected loss in Tuesday’s New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.

According to a Politico report, the Clintons are “so dissatisfied with their campaign’s messaging and digital operations they are considering staffing and strategy changes after what’s expected to be a loss” in New Hampshire.

When asked about the report on MSNBC, Hillary Clinton replied on Monday, “I have no idea what they’re talking about or who they are talking to.”

“We’re going to take stock, but it’s going to be the campaign that I’ve got,” she said. Clinton said that though she was “very confident in the people that I have… we’re moving into a different phase of the campaign. We’re moving into a more diverse electorate. We’re moving into a more diverse electorate. We’re moving into different geographic areas. So, of course it would be malpractice not to say, ‘OK, what worked? What can we do better? What do we have to do new and different that we have to pull out?’”

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta later said there “is zero truth to what you may be reading” and “Hillary stands behind her team, period.”

The Clintons were reportedly “stung by her narrow victory in Iowa,” especially since Clinton held a commanding 50-point lead in the Hawkeye State last summer, and they have “become increasingly caustic in their criticism of aides.” They had reportedly planned to “take stock” of the campaign after the first four nominating contests but are planning to accelerate those efforts.

A Democratic official who regularly speaks to the Clintons told Politico that the “Clintons are not happy, and have been letting all of us know that.”

According to “staffers, donors and Clinton-allied operatives,” the heart of the problem revolves around decision not to appoint a single empowered chief strategist like Mark Penn. But Penn notoriously did not appreciate the difference between caucus and primary states in 2008, and the Obama campaign ran circles around Clinton’s to rack up delegates various caucus states. Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook is great at logistics but is not known for messaging.

The tension in the campaign reportedly started to simmer during the Summer when Clinton’s campaign could not get off the ground because of Clinton’s private email scandal. According to Politico, “Clinton was deeply frustrated with her own staff, and vice versa. The candidate blamed her team for not getting her out of the mess quickly, and her team blamed Clinton for being stubbornly unwilling to take the advice of campaign chairman John Podesta and others to apologize, turn over her server, and move on. The entire experience made her a deeply vulnerable frontrunner out of the gate, and underscored a lack of trust between Clinton and her operatives, many of whom were former Obama staffers that she didn’t consider part of her inner circle of trust.”

Those like pollster Joel Benenson were reportedly frustrated that they had to “to play roles they hadn’t been hired for and were ill-suited for.” For instance, Benenson, one of the party’s top pollsters, “was frustrated that he was forced to split his time between defending his boss on emails and defining a path for her candidacy.” Benenson has also reportedly been frustrated “with the Clintons’ habit of tapping a rolling cast of about a dozen outside advisers – who often have the candidate’s ear outside the official channels of communication.”

There are indeed many similarities to 2008, when Clinton loyalists like Maggie Williams and Geoff Garin eventually were brought on to run her campaign. Clinton Campaign Manager Patti Solis Doyle, whose influence diminished during the 2008 campaign and who eventually stepped down before February’s “Potomac Primary,” reportedly was so distraught at times that she holed up in her office and watched soap operas.

Politico pointed out that “ultimately, the disorganization is the candidate’s own decision-making, which lurches from hands-off delegation in times of success to hands-around-the-throat micromanagement when things go south.”

Though Bill Clinton had another 2008-like tantrum, railing against the sexism and “trolling” that his wife’s supporters have had to deal with online, Sanders, as Bill Clinton pointed out, is not Obama. And that may be why it so even more frustrating that Clinton will no shave to fight for a nomination against a proud, self-described Socialist that many thought would be a formal coronation.

Not only did Obama have a better organization than Sanders in states like South Carolina, Obama’s appeal to black voters who were determined to see the country’s first African-American president was obvious. Sanders has an uphill climb in appealing to minority voters who dominate the contests after New Hampshire.

But Sanders has been praised by liberals for hiring top aides who are helping him connect more with black and Hispanic Democrats on issues like criminal justice reform and immigration. Symone Sanders, a pro-Black Lives Matter activist who used to be with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, is Sanders’s national spokeswoman and Erika Andiola, a DREAMer who has been one of the top advocates for illegal immigrants, is a top Sanders adviser. Sanders may be primed to make inroads with minority voters if Clinton continues to stumble and 

Like in 2008, Clinton has had trouble finding a central message to rally voters around her potential historic White House win like Obama did in 2008. She is losing the female vote to Sanders in New Hampshire and young female voters in Iowa supported Sanders by a 6-to-1 margin. In her haste to look “victorious” over Sanders on the night of the Iowa caucuses, Clinton’s “victory” speech was panned for being shrill. Clinton has also had trouble countering Sanders’s criticism of her ties to Wall Street and the political establishment. During last week’s MSNBC debate, Clinton bizarrely and awkwardly played the gender card to fend off charges that she was the face of the big-money political establishment that Sanders is asking his supporters to overthrow. Clinton said that it was “amusing” that Sanders would characterize her, “a woman running to be the first woman president,” as “exemplifying the establishment.” 

David Axelrod, who was Obama’s top strategist in 2008, suggested on Monday that the Clintons are ultimately responsible for another dysfunctional and discombobulated campaign. Axelrod Tweeted, “When the exact same problems crop up in separate campaigns, with different staff, at what point do the principals say, ‘Hey, maybe it’s US?’”