Clinton's Team Thought California Was Winner Take All?
More specifically, the infamous Mark Penn thought so…and he didn’t get fired for it. They actually based their strategy off of it.
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 â€” 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. Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign now acknowledges privately: She underestimated the caucus states.
That’s the crazy thing! The strategy remained the same after Ickes corrected the rules. So the net effect is they simply took Penn at his word even though they knew the opposite to be true? WTF?
This squares with other reports that they didn’t really understand the caucus rules, never planned to have any resources in these states, etc. As I’ve said before, if Hillary’s performance in this primary season was any indication how she’ll run the White House, that’s reason #1 why she should never get the job. This campaign has been so badly mismanaged it’s astounding.
And how somebody with such a strong brand name in Democratic circles can get outmaneuvered at nearly every turn by a newcomer demonstrates a level of incompetency and inability to change that we don’t really want to repeat, if you catch my drift.
There’s underlying tension here is over who gets the blame for Clinton’s technical failures to try to amass delegates in some of the smaller February votes; Penn and Ickes have each suggested that the other is responsible. It is hard to see how this all gets stuck on Penn. Ickes, as the Ickes-friendly anecdote makes clear, knew the rules.
If this came from Ickes, he could just be trying to further paint Penn as the buffoon, but in the process he’s painting Hillary as the bigger buffoon since she adopted Penn’s malformed strategies.
Maybe further down the road we’ll sort through all of this, but my money is on Penn being the one who assured Clinton that if she stuck with the big states, this thing would be over by Super Tuesday. Because they literally did not plan for after super tuesday. No joke.
Not only that, others have spoken publicly about Penn’s incompetence…
In an interview with The Observer, Mr. Panetta compared Mrs. Clintonâ€™s top strategist Mark Penn to Karl Rove, suggested that the Clinton campaign had totally underestimated Barack Obamaâ€™s appeal, and complained about the overall lack of planning that he said had characterized the former First Ladyâ€™s bid to return to the White House.
Mr. Panetta, who served as chief of staff in the White House from July 1994 to January 1997, and who has contributed $2000 to Mrs. Clintonâ€™s presidential campaign, complained that Mr. Penn â€œis a political pollster from the past.â€
Long story short, it’s been obvious to many of us in the blogosphere how decidedly hacky and ill-prepared Penn was for a general election fight. Looks like the world is starting to find out too.
By the way, Penn is still employed by the Clinton campaign.