"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Thursday, December 13, 2007

TeamHillary: Sharpening the Knives

Earlier this year, TeamHillary was being admired for the disciplined focus and the strict messaging coming from the former first lady's campaign. It was more reminiscent of the GOP Bush/Rove campaign (and first term White House) team than the sometimes chaotic rivalries we remember from Bill Clinton's team. But the recent downturn in early state polls resulted in poorly advised and amateurish attacks on chief rival Barack Obama, revealing a sense of panic inside the campaign.

Democratic dischord - Clinton-style - is resurgent.

Further confirmation of disarray comes with the stories of top-level infighting and backstabbing among senior aides. Chief target: pollster Mark Penn. Newsday reports:

"There are two people who have come up with this strategy -- one Hillary Clinton and one Mark Penn," said a top Clinton ally, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Mark wanted to run her, basically, for re-election, and we are seeing what happened."

Said another Clinton camper: "The heat's on Mark. ... He's got a lot of enemies."

It's never a good sign when a campaign starts springing anonymous leaks. The revelation of a Bill vs. Hillary staff schism within the campaign is perhaps the most ominous threat to a Clinton restoration. This is one of the obstacles/struggles Al Gore encountered during the 2000 campaign. More from the Newsday article:

For months, tension has been building between the "Hillary" and "Bill" parts of the team, say several people familiar with the situation. Bill Clinton -- along with former White House hands -- have counseled her to adopt a far more aggressive approach with Obama.

Penn, sources say, has counseled moderation, believing an attack would elevate her already-high negatives and drive her too far to the left to win a general election.

If it really is Bill behind the recent aggressive attacks, I find myself in rare agreement with Penn. I think the "win at all costs" approach hurts Hillary's campaign more than Obama's. While I disliked the "coronation march" we were witnessing throughout most of 2007, I think it was the one which made the most sense, politically.

Now, with less than three weeks before the Iowa voting, the campaign is off-message and attacking recklessly, aides are playing the blame game (although anonymously thus far) and Bill is taking center stage.

None of this is good news for Hillary's nomination chances.

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