Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why Hillary Lost

So Hillary is still in it but the new theme of her campaign is "Dead Candidacy Walking." So how did someone who was the nominee presumptive a year ago come to this? How did someone who was supposedly going to go on a multi-state victory lap on her way to the Democratic convention lose? Here are some of the reasons (I'm sure there were others but I think these were the biggest).

First, the war: Hillary waffled like crazy on the war. From the start she has had a calculating rather than principled position on the war. Her lead in Iowa began to erode over this issue. People may be forgetting now that Hillary was being heckled and booed at campaign events because of the war. After a couple of months of that she started to develop a new version of her position that gradually evolved into her current anti-war stance. I can say that in Iowa this was a big problem for her. All through the summer of 2007 she was getting flack from Democrats in Iowa about the war. It was the war that weakened her and opened the door in Iowa to Obama.

Second, change vs. status quo vs. nostalgia: In sarcastic reference to Bill Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century," Hillary Clinton's campaign has been ridiculed by opponents for trying to "build a bridge back to the 20th century." In addition to being a cute and snarky tag line, it sticks because it rings a little true. Hillary's main selling point has been her supposed competence and experience and she has pointed to her role as First Lady in the 1990s as evidence of both. I won't debate the validity of her claims in this regard here, but her over arching argument for why she should be President was based on experience and an implied promise of a return to the prosperity of the 1990s. But this badly misread the mood of the country. Large majorities of Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction and they blame traditional Washington leadership of both parties for it. We know they don't like Bush. They don't like Congress. They don't like the Republicans in Congress. But they don't like Democrats in Congress much either. In elections such as these, claiming to be the safe insider leader is a dangerous line to take. People will be drawn to outsiders in elections like this. Governors/mayors (like Richardson, Huckabee, and Giuliani), mavericks (like McCain) and perceived "new faces" (like Obama) will have an advantage. All the governors got weeded out of the primary race early but Obama is nothing if not a "new face." Clinton had been banking on setting up an image as a safe, non-threatening leader for years. She carefully crafted each position from the war to trade to the economy to sound moderate and avoided any boat rocking. What she and her advisers failed to realize was that when 80% of the country thinks the country is going in the wrong direction, they want a little boat rocking. The only thing about her candidacy that really cried out "CHANGE" was her gender. Everything else, her name, her positions etc, cried out "I WON'T ROCK THE BOAT TOO MUCH."

Third, mismanagement: Since she was running as the experienced candidate, the one who would be ready "from day one," it is particularly problematic that her campaign has been so badly run and openly seen to be so. Despite raising more money than any Democrat in a primary in history with the exception of Obama and even out raising Obama in the early stages, Hillary's campaign is reportedly over $20 million in debt (some of the Internet sources say the debt is as high as $30 million but I think this can be traced back to a math error by an LA Times reporter). Regardless of whether the debt levels are at the "Holy Crap!" level or the "OMFG!" level, her own donors began to complain openly about her campaign's spending priorities. Much of the debt is owed to one political consultant, long time Clinton associate and former chief strategist for the Clinton campaign , Mark Penn. It is widely understood now that Penn blew it. His most flamboyant error was to design a strategy based on the wrong electoral system! He thought Democratic primaries awarded delegates on a winner take all basis rather than proportionally as they do. Hillary's mistake was keeping him and his strategy in place even after they looked the rules up and found out he was wrong. Penn resigned in April but by then Clinton's chances of winning the nomination had suffered a fatal blow (by the time Penn quit, Clinton needed to win over 62% of the vote in every remaining state something she had not done in any state up to that time).

So that's why I think she lost. Another worth while question is why she was able to stay in as long as did with all these problems. I'll post about that later.


The Law Talking Guy said...

There's a Simpsons episode where Ned Flanders has invited a Christian rock singer he met to spend the night at his house. He gives her a robe to wear with his dead wife's name on it. She's a bit creeped out by this. He rubs the fabric against his face and says, "Don't you just love chenille?" She makes a bit of a face and says, "I don't love it; I don't hate it."

I feel like the party regulars said to the rank and file, "Don't you just love the Clintons?" And the reaction was, well, mixed, ambivalent, and fraught. Being baggage-free, Obama enjoyed advantages she never understood. It wasn't the media or the "boys" that did caused her to be treated differently by voters - it was her own baggage.

Problem was, nobody wanted to celebrate a Clinton victory with a cigar.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Stuff on RCP in last 5 days but not on

NH: Obama +5 (Rasmussen)
Ohio: Obama +9 (SurveyUSa)
VA: Obama +7
PA: Obama +6, +8

Also, all recent national polls show Obama doing better against McCain than Clinton would.

None of these polls is really reflective of what's going to happen in Nov.

Frank D. Russo said...

Great analysis. I think you hit the nail on the head.

Another factor was Bill Clinton himself, saying some things that enabled Obama to unify the Black vote for him and alienated many Blacks from Clinton.