Speculation is mounting that Hillary Rodham Clinton may be ready to pull the plug on her faltering Presidential campaign.
Sources within the beleaguered campaign say fund raising has dried up and mounting debts may force a cutback in ads, direct mail and staff.
At Thursday night’s debate in Austin, Texas, Clinton appeared at times resigned to the fact that her campaign is coming to an end. Her closing sounded to some more like a valedictory address than the words of a candidate who fights to the end.
In the past she has always said she would stay in the race through the convention — no matter what.
On NBC’s Today Show, Meredith Vieira asked Clinton if she planned to stay in the campaign until the convention in Denver.
Clinton responded that she doesn’t “predict the future.”
But supporters and donors say the future doesn’t look that good. Even “never say die” Bill Clinton admits that if Hillary loses at least one of the big-state primaries in Texas or Ohio next week the race is over.
Others feel it is already over. Political insiders say Clinton’s only option at this point is to pull the plug and save face.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
“We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,” said a prominent New York donor. “So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.”
The high-priced senior consultants to Mrs. Clinton, of New York, have emerged as particular targets of complaints, given that they conceived and executed a political strategy that has thus far proved unsuccessful.
The firm that includes Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster, and his team collected $3.8 million for fees and expenses in January; in total, including what the campaign still owes, the firm has billed more than $10 million for consulting, direct mail and other services, an amount other Democratic strategists who are not affiliated with either campaign called stunning.
Howard Wolfson, the communications director and a senior member of the advertising team, earned nearly $267,000 in January. His total, including the campaign’s debt to him, tops $730,000.
Where else does Clinton spend her money? According to Federal Election Commission reports and The Times:
Nearly $100,000 went for party platters and groceries before the Iowa caucuses, even though the partying mood evaporated quickly. Rooms at the Bellagio luxury hotel in Las Vegas consumed more than $25,000; the Four Seasons, another $5,000. And top consultants collected about $5 million in January, a month of crucial expenses and tough fund-raising.
Campaign sources say Clinton’s claims of raising $1 million a day on the Internet during the first 15 days of February were inflated and add that fund raising all but dried up after her big loss earlier this week in Wisconsin.
“We’re broke and in debt,” says one worried campaign staff member.
Supporters and staff also worry about her passive performance in Thursday’s debate.
With Sen. Barack Obama rolling like a freight train to 10 straight primary wins, Sen. Hillary Clinton took the Illinois senator on in a keenly anticipated debate Thursday night at the University of Texas in Austin.
She may not have done enough to stop his momentum.
Clinton’s attempt to score points with a prepared line about claims of plagiarism fell flat. Reports The New York Daily News:
Hillary Clinton’s best shot at Barack Obama was a dud, so she switched gears and tried to win voters back by connecting on a warmer, personal level in Thursday night’s critical debate.
The New York senator came to Austin Thursday night trying to play Texas hold ’em, with Obama eating away at her lead in the Lone Star State and her other March 4 firewall, Ohio.
She looked to score with a canned putdown of Obama when a question arose over whether Obama had too liberally borrowed others’ words for his arena-packing speeches.
“Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in – it’s change you can Xerox,” zinged Clinton.
The crowd at the University of Texas booed.
The San Francisco Chronicle agreed:
After 11 straight victories by Obama, Clinton went into the debate needing a knock-down punch. When her attack lines failed, she pounded on policy. Obama more than held his own. If anything, the debate was a draw that probably did not shift votes.
Clinton waited to go on offense, even backing away from an engraved invitation by panelist John King, who asked her about her “all hat, no cattle” line that she has repeated in her stump speeches. Clinton responded that her comment was directed at President Bush. Clearly her campaign had decided that the attack strategy Clinton took to Wisconsin contributed to her defeat Tuesday.
It was Obama who leapt at a chance to blast her “Let’s get real” argument, saying it implies his supporters are delusional.
Clinton quickly struck back. When Obama called her accusation that he had committed plagiarism “silly,” she replied that if a campaign is about words, they should be one’s own.
Then she let loose her attack line: “That’s not change you can believe it. It’s change you can Xerox.”
It got boos. She must have had more such lines up her sleeve, but she didn’t use another after that.
Some see Clinton’s words and demeanor as those of a candidate who knows the race is over.
Was it a pivotal moment that could change the campaign, or the swan song of a candidate who may be nearing the end of her U.S. presidential bid?
Hillary Clinton’s concluding statement in a televised debate on Thursday drew a standing ovation from the audience and plaudits from analysts.
But some said her words — which touched on her personal trials while complimenting her rival, Barack Obama — came too late in a contest that has largely turned in his direction.
Clinton’s advisers portrayed her closing comments as a turning point.
“It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice,” Howard Wolfson, her communications director, said in a statement.
But the timing was poor. After losing a string of contests to Obama over the last several weeks, she is running neck-and-neck with him in Texas, according to some polls, a state in which she previously had a commanding lead.
“It is a good moment for her that comes very late in the game — probably too late,” Zelizer said. “She doesn’t have momentum, she doesn’t have enough money, and most importantly she doesn’t have the numbers on her side.”
Clinton seemed to acknowledge her critical position.
“Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends,” she said, looking at Obama sitting next to her. “I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that’s what this election should be about.”
For undecided voter Haley Pollock, 24, that was an admission that the former first lady could fail.
“I think that she’s starting to realize that it’s a lot more feasible that she’s going to lose than it was before,” Pollock told Reuters at a rally after the debate.