Relentless: How Barack Obama Outsmarted Hillary Clinton

Relentless: How Barack Obama Outsmarted Hillary Clinton


As I’ve said frequently in the past year, Clinton and her team was not up to the task of running the country. Disagree with me if you like, but as numerous behind-the-scenes exposes come out that show just how dysfunctional the campaign was, Democrats everywhere should breathe a sigh of relief that they secured Obama as their nominee.

Or, as Roger Simon of Politico puts it…

In the end, Hillary Clinton might not have gotten the campaign she deserved, but she got the campaign she created.

In any event, take a look at this amazing seven part series about how everything went so amazingly right for Obama and horribly wrong for Clinton.

Introduction: The path to the nomination

In the summer of 2006, Patti Solis Doyle offered David Axelrod a job. Hillary Clinton was running for reelection to the Senate and Solis Doyle was her campaign manager, but everybody knew Clinton was soon going to run for president. And Clinton wanted Axelrod onboard.

Part One: The improbable plan

In May of 2006, when Hillary Clinton was publicly running for reelection to the U.S. Senate, she was also secretly interviewing potential staff members for the presidential race that she would launch the following year. One person she interviewed was Steve Hildebrand.

Part Two: Looking like whiny babies

Obama campaign organizers drew up plans, lots and lots of plans, and always a budget for how to pay for what they were planning. They even planned for things that few people — including few people in the Hillary Clinton campaign — even knew about. In March 2007, only a month after Obama announced, Hildebrand came across two people in the Obama campaign offices he had never met before: Mike Robertson and Myesha Ward. Robertson was calling members of the House and Senate and Ward was calling members of the Democratic National Committee to lock up their votes as something called “superdelegates.” Hildebrand was baffled. “Just to throw myself under the bus, I remember meeting them and wondering, ‘Why do we have them on the payroll? What is that about?’” he said.

Part Three: Lost in Hillaryland

In the spring of 2007, several confidential discussions were held within the Hillary Clinton campaign to have Clinton admit that her vote to approve the Iraq war had been a mistake and to have her apologize for it. It made sense. The Democratic Party was solidly against the war, and many voters had gone to the polls in November 2006 to elect a Congress they hoped was going to end the war. The other Democratic candidates in the race who had voted for the war — Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and John Edwards — had all said their votes in 2002 to authorize the war had been wrong. Only Hillary was holding out, and Barack Obama was hitting her hard for it, saying that he (who, lucky stiff, had not been a senator in 2002) had opposed the war from the beginning. His attack was a dagger at the heart of her central message: Hillary was the candidate of experience? Yeah, the kind of experience that led her to vote for a disastrous war.

Part Four: Amid the corn

It was going to be all about Iowa. The caucus that would not die. The Iowa caucus had gained national attention in 1972 as an oddball little contest for party insiders, and now it was a monster rally. The rules had been designed to keep tourists, i.e., regular voters, away: It was always held on a winter’s night, everybody had to show up at the same time and stand around for hours, and there was no secret ballot. Only a very small universe of party activists used to attend, and it was meant to be that way. It was a party-building event for insiders and by insiders. But that was before presidential campaigns went on steroids with large staffs, enormous budgets and massive targeting operations.

Part Five: 100 percent delusional

The question for Hillary Clinton was not whether South Carolina was going to be bad — South Carolina was going to be bad — the question was whether it was going to be a loss or a disaster. The Democratic National Committee had moved South Carolina up in the voting calendar to Jan. 26 to give African-Americans a more prominent role in choosing the nominee, and it was estimated that nearly half the Democratic primary vote there would be black.

Part Six: Why believe the superdelegates?

At the beginning of the 2008 campaign, very few people even knew what a superdelegate was. It was like the Electoral College before the 2000 election. Who cared? Whoever won the popular vote became president, right? And whoever got the most pledged delegates in the primaries and caucuses became the nominee, right?

And scene…

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  • Jon Dale

    I’m continually stunned at how presidential candidates, and particularly Democratic presidential candidates in particular, seem to start with a blank sheet of paper each time they run for office. I guess that the size of ego it takes to see oneself as president probably gets in the way of taking advice and mentoring from party aparatchniks (sp), which is too bad.

    There’s no denying it. Obama is smart with a capital S. We could use some of that in the white house for a change.