Thursday, May 08, 2008

That's what you get for hiring a Republican strategist to run your campaign

Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine is out today with a post-mortem on what went wrong with the Clinton campaign (hat tip to David Kurtz at TPM for flagging it). Her analysis includes the following bombshell revelation:

Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game. That became abundantly clear in a strategy session last year, according to two people who were there. As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. "How can it possibly be," Ickes asked, "that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?" And yet the strategy remained the same, with the campaign making its bet on big-state victories. Even now, it can seem as if they don't get it. Both Bill and Hillary have noted plaintively that if Democrats had the same winner-take-all rules as Republicans, she'd be the nominee.

As you know, I've been highly critical of Senator Clinton's choice of Mark Penn as her chief strategist. If it's indeed true that Mark Penn didn't realize that the Democratic primaries are proportional, rather than winner take all, that would be one of the biggest blunders in political history. The fact that the Clinton campaign, even once recognizing the mistake, didn't correct for it, appears even more shocking. Now maybe this is just some campaign insider trying to throw Mark Penn under the bus (heaven knows he deserves it). But the fact that Penn spends so much time of his time working for Republican candidates and their corporatist enablers makes the rumor seem that much more plausible.

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