Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 15, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Ezra Klein, remarking on Hillary Clinton's campaign:

During periods when I see more of Hillary Clinton and less of her campaign, I'm more favorably disposed. During periods when I see less of Hillary Clinton and more of her campaign, I'm less favorably disposed.

This, mind you, comes in a post in which he says he thinks Clinton "has run a pretty good campaign." I wonder what a bad campaign would look like?

Kevin Drum 11:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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See, e.g., Rudy Giuliani.

Posted by: phil on February 15, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Comparatively, every Republican campaign drew less votes than Hillary Clinton's campaign:


On the Democratic side, somebody eventually had to lose.
On the Republican side, somebody eventually had to win.

Posted by: Aaron on February 15, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I absolutely agree with Ezra's statement, but I think she's run a fairly poor campaign. And it's getting worse all the time. I voted for Obama here in Missouri, but would have enthusiastically supported Hillary in the general if she came out on top--until she and her aides started with the talk of different ways she might game the system to become the nominee. Sorry, but I don't see any excuse for that kind of crap.

Posted by: Winslow on February 15, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

The President does a lot more through others than by him or herself, thus it's fairly damning if you see their cohorts looking awful.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on February 15, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

I appreciate that the HRC campaign has settled one nagging question: They have proved once and for all that running a racist campaign is best left to Republicans.

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree with Clinton people who say that superdelegates are free to vote as they see best, I can see no just argument for trying to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida. The rules were set and the punishment agreed to by all candidates (even Clinton before she "won"). If those states want to have a say in this process, they need to revote (by mail if that will get the most participation). If they set it up now, they will get incredible coverage and a huge say in who our nominee is. But if Clinton pushes to seat those states now, there will be huge backlash.

Posted by: Rev Michael on February 15, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

During periods when I see more of Hillary Clinton and less of her campaign, I'm more favorably disposed. During periods when I see less of Hillary Clinton and more of her campaign, I'm less favorably disposed.

That's because she's taken to wearing fentanyl. The withdrawal symptoms suck.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 15, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Truth is Hillary could have won the nomination -if she hadn't run a tone deaf, get just the big states GE campaign to win 51%.

The Primaries, however, are set up so all states are important and all voters within the state have a say. The idea is to maximize voice and participation in the selection of the nominee with the broadest appeal.

The fact that she has showed no appreciation of that scheme is both mindboggling and insulting.

Posted by: C.B. on February 15, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Three of the top four Hillary Campaign stories in the last day have not been about her. They have been about Team Hillary's admission that they hyped the David Schuster story to intimidate Chris Matthews, how Mandy Grunwald and Mark Penn are fighting, and how Chris Matthews has responded to the first shot. The fourth story is about the loss of a key African American super delegate. It is never a good news day when the staff is making all the news.

Folks, Clinton is close in Wisconsin and might do well in Hawaii. If she does well next Tuesday it will be on her own merits and not the result of great staff work.

Oh, the key Matthews quote from the third story should really be the quote of the day: "Her campaign slogan right now is don't get your hopes up."

Posted by: Corpus Juris on February 15, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

The 2000 election was not so long ago that one could not remember what a bad campaign looked like.

Posted by: Brojo on February 15, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

ARG has a new poll showing Obama leading Hillary in Texas 48-42. Obama has broken through on the national polls. Independents will flock to Obama in Wisconsin, giving him another huge victory. All Mark Penn's spin can't stop the Obama Express.

Posted by: Traven on February 15, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I am not sure anyone knows how to run a "good" compaign when the media despises you. There is no good way to deal with that because you are ridiculed no matter what you do. The media has no compunction about deliberately distorting what a candidate they dislike says. This also happened to Gore and to some extent, Kerry. I think it will also happen to Obama if the media decides to go after him. They may not because they are pretty enamored right now, but they also really like McCain and their big fat tax cuts they got from Bush.
I am so tired of the media skewing the races I could scream. Some of them openly admit they like to build up candidates, then tear them down. Usually this is to the detriment of the Democratic party and I have a bad feeling it will be again once the GE starts.
Obama people may not like the fact that Hillary and her supporters have gone after Matthews et al, but this is long overdue. These guys absolutely trashed Gore and fawned over Bush. I, for one, think it will benefit any Democrat becaue the media will now know that Democrats are no longer willing to sit by and watch this happen. Republicans have been very aggressive with the media for years and they have responded. It is time we fought back.
I am not recommending that we complain about fair criticism like Republicans do, just the kind of dishonest garbage they are far too willing to engage in. For example, Chris Matthews admitted that he knew Gore had never claimed to have invented the internet, yet he went on saying this over and over. At the same time Bush was allowed to get by with huge whoppers. This should not be tolerated. I spent a lot of time in 2000 trying to get people - often Democrats - to realize this was happening to no avail. A lot of them have since told me how much they regret not listening then. Unfortunately some of them still buy the garbage that has been spread about Hillary. We need to vote based on actual differences, not spin.

Posted by: BernieO on February 15, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK
....I am not recommending that we complain about fair criticism like Republicans do, just the kind of dishonest garbage.... BernieO at 1:13 PM
Precisely. I've sent literally thousands of emails to the news media personalities since 1999 and they continue to spout Republican spin as fact. Many of them are ignorant, others are quite happy to lie. They worked hard to elect Bush and they will work hard to elect McCain. That is what we get from millionaire 'pundits' who represent the interest of the corporate media. There will be no change of their modus operandi until far more people call them on it as recently happened to Imus, Matthews and Shuster. Sadly, the Obama people don't seem to be concerned. Posted by: Mike on February 15, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Obama people may not like the fact that Hillary and her supporters have gone after Matthews et al, but this is long overdue.

Which "Obama people" would this be?

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary's campaign has been very poorly managed - incompetence is probably the most fitting description.

First, she blew through $30 million in an uncontested senate reelection campaign (which understandably angered a lot of her biggest donors). Nevertheless, she kept her campaign manager. So is it any surprise that she blew through all of her money by Super Tuesday? Well, supposedly it was a surprise to Hillary because she had to send Bill down to spend several days going over the books to find out where the money went.

Remember too that she started out with all of the advantages - a large war chest of funsd, high name recognition (good or bad, she had the spotlight), lots of prominent endorsements from day one, tons of institutional support (much of the Democratic party machine was simply hers for the asking), and of course Bill Clinton (for advice, speeches, goodwill, etc.).

And yet here we are with her behind in delegates.

On top of it all, she's been running a fairly vacuous and sleazy campaign. She signed a pledge not to campaign in Michigan and Florida, and to remove herself from the ballot, but then went back on her word and campaigned there anyway... and is now trying to profit from it cheating by trying to seat those delegates.

There's a laundry list of hypocritical, disingenuous or even downright sleazy campaign tactics that she's used. The most recent thing that comes to mind is implying Obama is corrupt because he took money from an energy company named Exelon and also wrote legislation that arguably softened regulations on them. She may have a point, except her campaign strategist is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from Exelon. Oh, and that legislation that Obama authored? She voted in favor of it.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has an objective view of the Clinton administration. Hillary was herself contributed in no small part to the scandals (hiding Rose law firm files in the White House, filegate, the questionable handling of Vince Foster's suicide, and her insistence that Bill publicly deny the affair with Lewinsky which led to the impeachment charges, to name the most obvious).

Yes, the Republicans exaggerated the significance of many of these events by 20 fold, but that doesn't mean there weren't legitimate questions about their judgment and morality. Have people simply forgotten or is this just another example of people putting their loyalty for a family above their party and country? To me, it looks a lot more like the latter.

Posted by: Augustus on February 15, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Outstanding post,Bernie O.

I don't think McCain has run a great campaign, but the media has propped his decrepit ass up so many times, he has the Republican nomination. Kevin seems to live in an alternate universe, as an exapmple, when he constantly stated that Clinton's negatives could not get much worse, because the media had been driving them up over 15 years. What Kevin didn't understand or acknowledge was the impact of 24/7 media coverage could get those negatives even higher.

I have seen Drum fall for the media spin in getting upset over supposed Clinton campaign race baiting, while I have seen no comparable outrage over sexist comments from Obama's campaign even from Obama's own lips.

Drum thinks Clinton has run a bad campaign. I am sure he thinks Obama has run a good campaign, which he has. However, I too feel the same way Ezra feels when describing his inclinations toward Hillary and her campaign. Every time I see Obama I am more inclined to support him. Every time I see that tool David Axelrod or Jesse Jackson Jr., not so much. Why Drum thinks the two ideas have to be compatible, is beyond my understanding.

Posted by: harry s/mdana on February 15, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

We know Hillary. Libs can still project their fantasies on Obama.

Posted by: Luther on February 15, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I, too, thought of Guiliani's campaign as being a bad one, but then I realized Hillary's campaign is looking more and more like Rudy's "don't sweat the small states, we've got our firewall in ..."

Fill in "Ohio" for "Florida" and they're pretty much the same.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 15, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I liked Bernie's post for the most part, but this comment touches on a concern I have with Clinton supporters:

Unfortunately some of them still buy the garbage that has been spread about Hillary. We need to vote based on actual differences, not spin.

Yes, absolutely, there is a lot of unfair criticism leveled against Hillary by the press and others. Yes, a lot of the Republican hatred of Hillary is either lacking in foundation or far greater than the Clinton misdeeds should reasonably warrant.

However, the fact that a lot of the criticism and animosity directed at the Clintons is unfair (and sometimes unfounded) does not mean they are without fault or otherwise blameless innocent victims. Quite the contrary.

Nor should anything that I've said be mistaken to imply that Obama is an angel. One should be wary of putting too much faith or trust in any politician.

The Clintons simply have too much history of questionable behavior and tactics for any reasonable person to discount. And if you think there's a lot of discord between Obama and Hillary supporters, what exactly do you think things will be like when it's Hillary versus the Republicans? At best it will be a replay of what we had under the Bill Clinton administration. But my fear is that it will be even more contentious, as Hillary doesn't have anywhere near Bill's charm or ability to inspire people through oratory.

It's difficult for me to imagine Hillary winning a general election. Some Democrats will be chilled by her tactics (going back on her pledge and trying to seat Florida and Michigan delegates, some her attacks on Obama, etc.) and be less likely to show up to vote for her because of how she won. She won't capture as many Independents (yet alone cross-over Republicans) as Obama would. She won't inspire the same levels of youth and minority voting that Obama does. And she risks re-energizing the Republican base and turning out Republican voters who otherwise might have stayed home on election day.

She has all the personality of John Kerry but instead of having a war record, she has her history of scandals in the Clinton administration. And at least Kerry didn't exactly inspire hatred from the Republican base (mostly just indifference).

Even McCain has started attacking Obama because he believes it will be easier to defeat Hillary.

My fear is that Hillary simply has more establishment support and will find a way to get the nomination one way or another and will then almost certainly lose the general election... I wouldn't be surprised for if McCain's current 4 point lead over Hillary widened to 6 shortly after her nomination and stayed that way until November.

Posted by: Augustus on February 15, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK


I think both Esra and Kevin would agree that when a campaign is well run the story is about the candidate. When a campaign is poorly run the story tends to be about the staff.

The Clinton campaign has generated entirely too many staff/process stories. For couple of critical weeks they allowed Bill to overshadow Hillary. I bet any of us could name 5 members of Hillary's staff. Hell, collectively they are known as Team Hillary. A public feud between Greenwald and Penn, what's up with that? That should be a firing offense for both. Hillary has publically replaced several key staffers in the last week alone. The story from those firings--Hillary values loyalty over competence. Jez, what a crappy story for somebody who wants to replace George W. Bush.

I think the Obama campaign has done a good job of keeping things focused on the candidate. The campaign has slipped only on those few occasions when either Axelrod or Jackson has been out front.

I think the McCain campaign has done a great job keeping the light on him. Can you name anybody on McCain's staff? The McCain campaign gives the impression that he is all alone on the campaign trail.

I would agree that both McCain and Obama have enjoyed good media so far. The coming collision is going to leave somebody complaining.

The process story is going to be one for the history books, but that some of the Clinton chapters are being written in public right now is very telling.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 15, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

corpus juris-How much of these stories are media driven? I mean they are not brilliant campaign maneuvers which many are assuming.

McCain's campaign doesn't have to be shown, because the fourth estate is driving the narrative, the campaign doesn't have to really do much except get out of the way.

You are under the impression that the good media coverage of Obama and McCain are due to the campaigns each respective candidate is running, I suffer no delusions. I remember how Axelrod benefitted from the media's hatred of Dean in 2004 and just drafted on it until Dean was no longer a candidate. Then the Edwards campaign had nowhere to go, I fear the same thing with Obama's once the vile Clinton is discarded.

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, too many democrats fall for that line of thinking. We will get fooled again, unless we change the media landscape.

Posted by: harry s/mdana on February 15, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is all easily explained by the following reading of Ezra's comment: He likes Hillary more the less he sees of the blogs/media's coverage of Hillary's campaign and less the more he sees of the same thing.

How else do we follow someone's campaign if not through the media/blogs? And given the fanatical hatred of her on many blogs, and the contemptuous treatment she gets from the media, no wonder it's better if you only watch the debates and listen to her speeches.

Posted by: Steve on February 15, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the Clinton Rules apply: She can't ever do anything right.

Come to think of it, those were the Kerry rules in 2004.

And they were really, really the Gore rules in 2000.

Tell me again why we allow the Village, through the press, to pick our Presidents for us?

Posted by: lambert strether on February 15, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm an Obama supporter, but I don't have much a problem with Hillary, I just feel that Obama is the better candidate.

However, I do have a problem with Hillary's campaign people and some of her supporters. The spin they put out, the attacks they make, their attempts at playing dumb, all it does is hurt her. Hillary unfortunately has, too often, listened to their advice and repeated their ridiculousness. If she would have rid herself of people like Penn (who has probably done more to sink her chances than anything else), she would have found herself in a much better position.

Obama's campaign occasionally engages in some of the same ridiculousness as Clinton's, but not to the same degree, and they seem to do a better job of realizing when they're off their mark and make the necessary adjustments.

Incidentally, I've been hearing some Hillary supporters on the radio today trying to make the case that they want the results from those non-elections in Michigan and Florida to count, and they oppose a re-do of either one....

I don't know what I should be more angry with:

-That they want to count the results from elections where everyone knew going in that they would not count, and in Michigan's case, where Obama's name wasn't on the ballot.


-That they oppose re-holding the elections where both candidates names appear on the ballot, and both are free to campaign in those states.

Far from inspiring.....

Posted by: Joe on February 15, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

This, mind you, comes in a post in which he says he thinks Clinton "has run a pretty good campaign." I wonder what a bad campaign would look like?

Maybe Fred Thompson's campaign? How about Guilliani's, or for that matter McCain's as of three months ago? Where would be now if Romney had run a campaign that was only as bad as Hillary's?

In what sense has Hillary's campaign been worse than, or any different from, Dukakis'?

The funny thing is that, even so, her campaign has undermined its own rationale. A presidential candidate (like a President) is supposed to put together a team of smart advisors, develop an insightful strategy, and run an organization that implements it. The only reason to care about experience is that it is correlated with the ability to do these things. But the main problem wasn't that the campaign was "bad." Rather, taking Mark Penn seriously bodes ill for your time in office.

I have no idea who the top people in the Obama campaign are, which is already quite a feat. It feels like the brilliant fundraising, outstanding ads, great field organizations, and effective use of the candidate's time, all sort of come from nowhere, without any Carville's preening in a "War Room." I've never seen anything like it, but really I just haven't seen it at all. There has never been another campaign that could, in comparison with this, be described as "pretty good."

Posted by: Andy McLennan on February 15, 2008 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

I am so sick of listening to all this whining by the Clintons and their supporters. Everybody hates the Clintons. Poor Clintons. Poor Clintons. Everybody's victims. Give me a break. He was a President and she is a two term Senator. People like the Clintons just fine. If she hadn't run into the Obama buzz saw she would be well on her way to being elected President.

You are right, I don't think McCain has a chance against either of them. With all positive media in the world there isn't a Republican insider alive who could win this cycle, Old Man McCain included. Huckabee was the only Republican who had a chance and only because he is a total outsider. Bush has simply poisoned the well for the Republican party.

Have you ever wondered why there is so much dissatisfaction in Republican ranks. All the really quality candidates are on the sidelines. Nobody wants to lose. Given the economic mess Bush has made of this country, its hard to find anyone who wants the thankless task of cleaning up after him.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 15, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

A very good point by Mr. Klein.
Why in the world her campaign for the nomination hasn't been based on how she actually ran her senate campaign, I really do not know. From what I have read about her two senate campaigns she appeared knowledgeable, approachable and likeable and people responded very well to that.
If Sen. Clinton wants to be the next Democratic nominee for president, she would be well advised to fire anyone who was associated with the "inevitability" strategy. And any bad publicity ("Clinton campaign massacre!" comes to mind) would be quickly overcome. It never hurts to admit your mistakes (as long as you learn from them!).
There would be the problem of all those unemployed "media experts", analysts, advisors and strategists...

Posted by: Doug on February 15, 2008 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Doug, notwithstanding my recent harsh criticisms of the way Hillary has run her campaign, I think she's actually done a very good job herself. I had been bending over backwards trying to tell people who had written her off (due to longstanding prejudices) to just take a moment and listen to one of her speeches online, or to watch the debates with an open mind.

Hillary is a better debater than Obama. She's a lot more personable and likable than most people assume (based on their old stereotypes). Of course, it requires an open mind to actually give someone a second chance and a lot of evidence to the contrary to reverse stereotypes/negative opinions. So she had an uphill climb. Nevertheless, I think she was doing a great job. In fact, I think it would have hard to have expected more from her (and I mean that as a compliment).

I think where she's gone wrong has been on the campaign side. Bill Clinton (and to a lesser degree Hillary herself) got a lot of negative press for comments they've made about Obama and his success. Whether or not Bill meant to be winking at race to dismiss Obama's victory in SC or not, the press certainly raised that as one possible interpretation. And of course there were other comments and criticisms by Bill and Hillary which generated a fair amount of negative attention for her campaign.

It may well be one of the rare instances where negative campaigning (and comparatively mild negative campaigning at that) actually hurt the campaign making them, rather than helping (as it usually does). It's interesting from another perspective - it would appear that the 24/7 blog-influenced media coverage has made some of the old standby political strategies a lot more risky than they were even as recently as 2000.

Anyway, it just seems like Hillary was hurt by her campaign more than by anything she did wrong personally during the campaign season. And of course she's not out yet. From my perspective, she'd be better serves taking a few more new, bold, progressive stands to get ahead of Obama (you know, the types of things Ezra and Kevin have lamented are lacking in Obama's campaign). She is, after all, now the underdog. She has less to lose. And I think no matter the outcome, progressives as whole would benefit for a general shift to the left by both campaigns.

Posted by: Augustus on February 15, 2008 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

I was feeling a little pissed today. Thought I would take a little trip to TPM and break my promise to lay off the Obamazooids. But you need a "password". Pussies. Why is Kevin's blog the shit? Because his balls are bigger, pure and simple.

Listen up Obamazooids. Your tactic of avoiding, and somehow, converting(?)wingnuts...is nuts. You have no idea of the shit storm coming right around the corner.

I've been bitchslapping these maggots for damn near three years now, and I promise you, they could give a fuck about your sensibilities. Not in a "No shit tell me something I don't know elmo!" sort of way. But in an "I was raping your mom on her death bed, then I made your wife suck my dick!" sort of way. Get it? Ok, that question was rhetorical for most. But Obamazooids haven't a clue. Could the reason be too many Law-tehs?

My bet is yes. Just like a wingnut, pretending to be more than you're not. Better wake up mother fuckers. Life ain't that pretty. You know, all rainbows and shit? Times change in the most peculiar ways sometimes, sure, but this time you cannot get by just by faking it. Better get all the street cred you can get now, boy...

1. a. An organic partisan or organized group that has independent movement within the Obama campaign, especially a motile gamete such as a spermatoloon.
b. An independent animal like partisan produced asexually, as by budding or inspirational speaking.

2. One of the distinct Obama individuals forming a colonial partisan such as a wingnut or chickenhawk.

Obamazooid'al adj.

Posted by: elmo on February 15, 2008 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

Gimme a break.

Read your Somerby.

Hillary answers a question (re drivers licenses and illegal immigrants) and gets hammered for it endlessly while Obama gives the same answer without notice.

The media has decided to try and make Obama the Dem nominee.

Now in a way that's no big deal to me, because I like Obama as well. My guess is somehow it was decided that HRC was the more dangerous candidate, and so they set out to build up Obama(which may well be a case of be careful what you wish for).

But it's very discouraging to see how few people pick up on it.

And Kevin you're no help at all on this issue. Rather, you're part of the problem.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on February 16, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary is a good candidate. When people see and hear her directly, and take the time to really listen to her, most are impressed. But they don't get to see and hear her directly very often -- the overwhelming hostility toward her in the media makes it impossible for any campaign message, good, bad, or indifferent, to break through.

Because of that media animosity, and the cowardice it engenders in many in her own party, she has been most powerfully defined not by her campaign, but by the media and the gender-coded attacks of her opponents in both parties, and their surrogates.

The resistance of so-called progressive bloggers to basic reality not withstanding, the simple fact is, this would most likely be true of any female candidate. In fact, it has always been true of every female candidate.

No one, really, knows the best way to fight this. She is in a precedent-breaking situation that can only be "learn as you go." But what she has accomplished, despite the resistance and cultural unease her historic candidacy is engendering, is nothing short of astonishing.

Let's put this in historical context, please. Clinton is not simply the first "credible" female candidate -- she is the first woman in our history to ever win even ONE delegate assigning primary. The very first. The ONLY.

She has not only blown passed historical precedent to an amazing extent, she has come within spitting distance of winning the nomination. Remember, Jesse Jackson, 20 years ago, hampered by race but not gender, won 11 primary and caucus states -- with absolutely no one suggesting that the only reason he didn't win the nomination was a matter of campaign strategy.

Posted by: mary on February 16, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK



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