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This seems to be the moment for post mortems of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Everybody probably has his or her own take, so if you read enough of them you can compute the average. What did she do wrong?
She acted like she had a right to the nomination. The ancient Greeks called this "Hubris." A couple of dozen Internet years ago, her folks, like Terry McAuliffe and James Carville said she was the inevitable nominee and anybody who opposed her would live to regret it. This was a huge mistake. Nobody has a right to the nomination, especially not someone who has been in the Senate just 7 years. This really caused a lot of irritation among Democrats. She should have known better. Here are the intrade.com trading prices on her nomination. She was running at 50%, not 100% in early 2007.
She actually believed it. Acting like you own the nomination to scare off opponents is one thing. Actually believing it yourself is something else. She really believed it. This was foolish since she knew she had heavyweight opponents including Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen Joe Biden, and Sen. John Edwards (plus Sen. Obama, who was not a threat in early 2007). In particular, she expected to get the nomination on Feb. 5 and didn't have any Plan B in case that didn't work. Nothing. The lack of a Plan B led to 11 straight wins by Obama, which is where he collected most of his delegates.
She forgot she was in a primary. Due to the above, she campaigned from day 1 as if she were in a general election. She refused to admit that her vote for the Iraq war as a mistake. That might have been a good strategy for the general election, but was a terrible one when talking to activist Democrats. John Edwards apologized for his vote for the war and was forgiven. She could have said: "I'm sorry for my vote. I didn't believe the President of the United States would lie to the country and to Congress. I was wrong. He lied. From now until January 2009, if he says Tuesday follows Monday, I will check three calendars before even considering the possibility.
She didn't understand the rules. Mark Penn, her "brilliant" strategist thought California was winner-take-all and that would wrap it up. All Democratic primaries are proportional, mostly by congressional district. It is very hard to accumulate a lot of delegates in any one primary. If she had studied all 56 delegate selection plans, she would have known that. It is all spelled out in exhausting detail
She ignored red states and caucuses. Another huge mistake. She put in a massive effort in Ohio, where 2 million people voted in the primary, and netted 7 delegates. Obama netted 7 delegates in the Alaska caucuses by getting just 6600 people to show up (Ohio has 141 pledged delegates, but the proportionality rules mean it's very hard to win more than about half so she won 74 to his 67). Anyone who read the DSP's could have seen this coming.
She didn't understand the Internet. Clinton had a Website, but her fundraising focused on getting rich donors to cough up $2300 for a plate of rubber chicken--the same way Bill did it in 1992. The world changed and she missed it. Obama outraised her by tens of millions of dollars and used the money effectively. Obama saw what Howard Dean did in 2004 and realized what was happening.
She didn't run as a woman. Obama didn't run as the black candidate because in every state except a couple in the South, there are more white Democrats than black Democrats. In contrast, there are a lot more female Democrats than male Democrats, especially among primary voters. She could have used the slogan: "Time for a change; we have had 43 male Presidents, now is the time for a female President." She could have energized huge numbers of women plus some number of men as well. Look at how intense her support among women was at the end. She failed to harness that support.
She found her voice too late. For months she kept changing her pitch, probably as a result of internal infighting among her consultants (Solis Doyle vs. Penn to start with). Finally, she decided to stand up for blue-collar workers who feel battered by the modern world. It was effective and it worked, but by then it was too late. In contrast, Obama's pitch today is exactly what it was a year ago.
And that was the end of her dream. A number of blogs used the headline: "When dreams collide" to describe the primaries. But someone had to win and someone had to lose. Obama won because he understood the nature of the game was to collect the most delegates and used his considerable skills to achieve that. Had Clinton not made some of the mistakes described above (especially ignoring caucus states), she might have won. But she did blaze a trail and the next time a woman runs for President, she is much more likely to be judged as just another candidate rather than a strange novelty. After all, nobody thinks it odd any more when a woman runs for the Senate. California, Washington, and Maine even have a pair of women senators.
In case you have forgotten, about a year ago the national press declared that the nomination was over for both parties. It was going to be a "subway series" between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Remember that? They didn't do such a great job. Clinton and Giuliani had name recognition going for them, which matters a lot early on but much less after the campaign starts. Clinton, although definitely plausible, was never inevitable. Giuliani, a thrice-married married pro-abortion, pro-gay-rights former New York mayor was never even plausible as the Republican nominee, despite all the polls showing that everybody knew his name. David Moore of the University of New Hampshire has a column on the front-runner myth over at pollster.com. Around here, the motto is "in politics a week is a long time."
We have two new general election polls today.
-- The Votemaster