Internal war threatens Clinton camp

Just as the up-and-down campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton appears on the verge of regaining momentum, bickering and dissension among senior staff threatens to implode her quest for the Presidency.

Controversial pollster and self-styled “chief strategist” Mark Penn stands in the midst of mounting internal strife that blunts even the enthusiasm of Tuesday’s three-out-of-four wins in primaries.

Most of Clinton’s top advisors want Penn fired but the blunt-talking Penn still enjoys the ear of both Bill and Hillary Clinton and, for the moment at least, that’s all he needs.

Still, the internal warfare continues and hampers the campaign’s efforts to regoup and focus on the all-important primary in Pennsylvania in less than seven weeks.

Reports Peter Baker and Anne E. Komblut of The Washington Post:

For the bruised and bitter staff around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tuesday’s death-defying victories in the Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio and Texas proved sweet indeed. They savored their wins yesterday, plotted their next steps and indulged in a moment of optimism. “She won’t be stopped,” one aide crowed.

And then Clinton’s advisers turned to their other goal: denying Mark Penn credit.

With a flurry of phone calls and e-mail messages that began before polls closed, campaign officials made clear to friends, colleagues and reporters that they did not view the wins as validation for the candidate’s chief strategist. “A lot of people would still like to see him go,” a senior adviser said.

The depth of hostility toward Penn even in a time of triumph illustrates the combustible environment within the Clinton campaign, an operation where internal strife and warring camps have undercut a candidate once seemingly destined for the Democratic nomination. Clinton now faces the challenge of exploiting this moment of opportunity while at the same time deciding whether the squabbling at her Arlington headquarters has become a distraction that requires her intervention.

Many of her advisers are waging a two-front war, one against Sen. Barack Obama and the second against one another, but their most pressing challenge is figuring out why Clinton won in Ohio and Texas and trying to duplicate it. While Penn sees his strategy as a reason for the victories that have kept her candidacy alive, other advisers attribute the wins to her perseverance, favorable demographics and a new campaign manager. Clinton won “despite us, not because of us,” one said.

Sifting through the data yesterday, her divided circle offered other theories. Some credit field operatives who set up organizations in record time. Others cite strong Hispanic outreach in South Texas that held off a late Obama push. And even some Penn opponents grudgingly cite his television commercial that asked which Democrat is more prepared for a 3 a.m. crisis call at the White House.


  1. geminieye

    Hillary did not win Texas! When the caucus results come in, based on projections from 41% of precincts reporting, Obama will have netted more delegates from Tuesday here in my state.

    And the popular vote came down to only about 100,000 people making the difference. A lot of Republicans voted for Hillary in Texas, something they won’t do in November. A ton of other REAL Democrats are starting to think of abandoning the party if she reaps the nomination from a backroom deal in August. That would disenfranchise the millions of us who want something more, something different, something better than what she and her sordid past and sleazy tactics show her to be capable of.

    Sign this petition on behalf of Barack, and forward it to ALL your friends and family:

  2. Pablo

    While we are all distracted
    with the campaign drama, I mean circus, whatever they call it, Ecuador, Venezuela and Columbia are about to go to war. The situation has been escalating since Columbia went into Ecuadorian territory about a week ago and bombed an encampment where members of the FARC revolutionary army were hiding. Even Nicaragua is getting involved and has also removed their ambassador from Columbia. But where is the press??? The only place I’ve seen any coverage is on Univision (the Spanish language station), but where is the English-language press? Are the latest attacks on Obama from hillary more important? I think not!
    Even the alternative-press internet sites I’ve been on are not saying anything. These are our neighbors and the situation is rather explosive with Chavez sending 10-15,000 troops to the Columbian border, and Columbia claiming that Chavez has given $300,000,000 to the FARC, according to alleged information they obtained from computers found at the FARC encampment on Ecuadorian soil. They are even accusing President Correa of Ecuador of collaborating with the FARC (which I highly doubt). There certainly is motive to spread untrue things about those that are a threat to corporate interests, so I am very leary of all this.
    Anyway, whether one believes the accusations of the U.S.-sponsored Columbian government or not, I find it very, very strange that the press is ignoring this very important story and continuing on with the republican-vs-republicrat campaign drama like that is all that matters. Well I must give them a little credit, they are also starting to talk about Britney perhaps being pregnant again, another important story over which we have about the same amount of control. Imagine if we all just quit paying attention and just showed up to do our civic duty of voting, but spent all the wasted time watching and reading election coverage meditating for positive things instead! That would probably be time better spent for ourselves AND the country! Sometimes I wonder if they just want to keep us all in a state of depression and fear, for that is the result of all this crap to a lot of people. Or perhaps they just draw out this stupid campaign to keep us all distracted and in election-coverage trances while god knows what they are doing. C’mon, they can’t even inform us of a war about to break out very close to us, seems like something is up!
    Why does the election process have to be so drawn out? What is the motive? We know it totally effects the jobs we hire these senators to do, but we allow this to go on. And as we see with lack of press coverage regarding this intense situation, it keeps the press from doing their jobs as well (like they would anyway). Even this alternative-press type of site has nothing on what is going on with the threatening situation I just outlined, but story after story of the hillary-Obama drama. It really gets depressing after a while. Not that the Columbia-Ecuador-Venezuela situation is not depressing and scary, but I believe a little variety would serve to uplift an election-campaign-weary populace.
    This whole election process needs to change. Shorten it up; let’s quit this wasteful, stressful clowning around. And while we’re at it, lets get the private and corporate $ out of it; make it taxpayer-funded. Outlaw Bribe $ contributions to politicians by lobbyists. Dismantle the corporate press; then the citizenry will get real, relevant news. Just my simple recipe for getting the U.S. onto the right path.

  3. sherry

    I have had calls at home from the Obama campaign. Lord knows a campaign will take any and all volunteers but the two calls I received from the Obama campaign were less than impressive. When I declined a check on the first one, he immediately, hung up.
    The second one insisted they were collecting money for the Hillary campaign as well. Suggesting Hillary donors are contributing to them to make sure the democrats win.
    Well oiled machine? Sounds like Chicago politics to me.

  4. Janet

    Sandra – interesting in AZ. Bush’s endorsement was the nail in the coffin for McCain, as was the endorsement of that nutcase TV evangelist.

    Seal – you hit the nail on the head. She is not sincere. It’s rehearsed and robotic. Howard Fineman of Time Magazine said that nothing Hillary does is accidental and by hemming and hawing a little on 50 Minutes when asked about Obama’s religion, she knew exactly what she was doing.

    But in the end, better Hillary than McCain and a third term of Bush’s policies. McCain doesn’t understand the effect of the Iraq war on the economy. Obama understands it.