Can Clinton pull out of this nose dive?

With 10 straight losses and the latest trouncing in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nose diving campaign is spiraling downward towards political oblivion.

At Clinton’s national campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, senior aides screamed and shouted into the early morning hours with one side urging the New York Senator and former First Lady to attack frontrunner Barack Obama without mercy and the other pushing her to be calm, collected and Presidential.

Either way is a long shot. Clinton’s campaign is all but over, drowning under a tsunami named Obama, her own mistakes and incredible screwups by her former President husband.

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman says Clinton campaign insiders tell him that chief strategist Mark Penn wants Hillary to pull out all the stops and attack Obama non-stop between now and the primaries in Texas and Ohio on March 4.

I’ve known Mark Penn for some 20 years. He and his former partner, Doug Schoen, worked for me as pollsters for our independent expenditures program when I ran the political programs division for the National Association of Realtors from 1987-92. His approach then, as it is now, was to attack without hesitation, take no prisoners and win by any means possible.

But I believe he and Clinton overplayed their hand with petty attacks against Obama in the past week – claiming plagiarism from a friend of the Illinois Senator who – it turned out – advised Obama to use the words in a speech to refute Clinton’s “words vs. solutions” approach.

Penn advised Clinton to ignore Obama’s victories in the Potomac primaries and again last night. In doing so, she went on stage and ignored the standard political tradition of conceding a primary election and congratulating the opponent. That decision cost Clinton valuable air time Tuesday night when the cable networks cut from the middle of her stump speech to cover Obama’s victory speech.

Mark doesn’t admit failure or defeat. Hillary Clinton’s enormous ego will not allow her to admit a mistake either. Penn believes their attacks against Obama helped keep his margin of victory below 60 percent in Wisconsin and he most likely will turn his candidate into a merciless attack machine.

Traditional political wisdom says that when your back is against the wall, you go negative. Clinton is out of options and she will probably follow Penn’s traditional political advice.

But this is not a traditional campaign. Obama’s rock-star personality has turned the race for the nomination into a happening, a phenomenon that ignores the rules and tramples tradition. Attempting to blunt his tremendous popularity with serious talk about experience and issues won’t work. Neither will attack ads.

Clinton still has a long-shot chance at a rebound but she can’t do it by following conventional political wisdom, assuming wisdom even exists in politics. She needs to muzzle her loose cannon husband and keep him off the campaign trail, assuming that is possible. She needs to sack Mark Penn, find a message and then stick to it.

If this campaign proves anything it is that comebacks also violate conventional political wisdom. John McCain’s resurrection from the political dead establishes that.

McCain jump started his campaign by sacking his strategists and his pollster. Clinton fired her campaign manager and deputy but still listens to Penn and pays him millions of dollars for the advice that drove her run for the Presidency from inevitable to impossible.

Clinton cannot claim to be a leader as long as she lets political hacks dump her campaign into the dustbin of history.


  1. woody188

    Doug said “If this campaign proves anything it is that comebacks also violate conventional political wisdom. John McCain’s resurrection from the political dead establishes that.”

    As if McCain getting the backing of Joe Lieberman and AIPAC and hence, Israel, had nothing to do with it! Odd that coincided with his “turn-around” is it not? Odd how the corporate media, who had all but written him off, then gave him favorable reviews and additional air time.

    I submit that the conventional wisdom was correct, and underestimated the power that the corporate media and the Israeli lobby has over America.

  2. acf

    Clinton stumbled during a debate just before the Iowa caucuses, and the opposition, sensing the chink in her armor, attacked. The media, for their part, kept the story alive by doing what they do when they decide on a punching bag, and the rest is history. She fell back to Obama, and he made the best of the opportunity.

  3. acf

    The campaign that Deval Patrick, now Governor of MA, ran was a model for the campaign that his friend Barack Obama is now running on a national scale. It’s not surprising that he is the source for numerous phrases that Obama has used in his campaign speeches. I must say that although the phrases are virtual copies of what Patrick used, they are common concepts and other than their construction, are basically public domain expressions and should not require disclosure, and I say that as a Clinton voter.

    Patrick doesn’t have the power of Obama as a speaker, but drew similar reactions from his audiences, and defeated the incumbent LtGov (incidentally Romney’s LtGov) in the election by near landslide proportions. After a euphoric, if brief honeymoon, he made numerous rookie mistakes, and got rolled by the Legislature for most of his first year. Obama would be playing on a bigger stage, and we have to be prepared for him to suffer a similar fate, although his brief Senatorial career could help him deal with Congress.

  4. neondog

    Peoples Ain’t That Stupid
    …Obama is wininng because people believe that there is an opportunity to actually change the direction of our country. Obama is winning because he is exciting the electorate.

    To say that Obama is winning in the Democratic primary only because he is running against Clinton is ridiculous.

    The “Obama is an empty suit” strategy and the “anybody could have beat Hillary” strategy is straight out of the right wing playbook.

  5. Walter F. Wouk

    “Can Clinton pull out of this nosedive?”

    Remember the adage, “age and treachery can overcome youth and skill.” Hillary Dearest has 35-years of treacherous skill to fall back on, so don’t count the Harpy out yet.

  6. SEAL

    Back around Sept. or Oct. we were discussing the seemingly insurmountable position Hillary Clinton held in her bid for the presidency. I don’t remember Obama even being on the horizon at that time. But I said that when the primaries began had Hillary was exposed to the people via television and public appearances she would turn people off. She is a lousy speaker and her negative attitude comes through, she can’t help it. She just projects a bad public image. I sad at the time all it would take was a decent candidate to come forth and she could be defeated.

    Well that prediction seems to have occured.