Usually presidential campaigns don’t have infighting and meltdowns until at least a few weeks after the campaign officially begins. Hillary Clinton’s throngs of potential consultants and officials couldn’t wait a few weeks to begin jockeying for power in the Great Coronation March (New And Improved Edition). According to ABC News, someone on the inside of a private listserv has leaked e-mails in an attempt to kneecap two other potential campaign leaders:
For the past five years, a prominent Democratic operative who is a leading contender to manage a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign has maintained a private email listserv for friends and associates that carries a provocative name: the “Mook Mafia.”
The listserv, which one member said reaches more than 150 fellow campaign veterans, has been a means for Robby Mook and a close friend Marlon Marshall to stay connected with many of the operatives who would likely populate a Democratic presidential campaign in 2016. Mook and Marshall have both been mentioned as possible Hillary Clinton campaign managers.
And someone else really wants to keep that from happening:
Copies of a cache of the emails obtained by ABC News, and revealed publicly for the first time, show Mook and Marshall demonstrating an aggressive tone in rallying their friends behind political causes, in exchanges that are often self-mocking and sometimes border on being profane.
They include rallying cries to, in Mook’s words, “smite Republicans mafia-style,” and, to quote Marshall, “punish those voters.” Mook sometimes calls himself “Deacon” in the emails, while Marshall, now a senior White House aide, refers to himself as “Reverend” in many of the exchanges. …
The private emails were provided to ABC News by a Democrat on the listserv who has worked alongside Mook and Marshall on previous campaigns. The person who provided the emails is, like the vast majority of those on the listserv, supportive of Hillary Clinton, but does not support the idea of Mook or Marshall holding leadership roles in a second presidential bid. They were provided on the condition of anonymity.
There isn’t much from these e-mails that will shock anyone who’s been around campaign activists for any length of time. Mook and Marshall sound like geeks who get a thrill out of gangster poseurism, with lots of adolescent giggling at their own political virility. At times, though, they sound like they’ve lost touch with reality, as in this message to the listserv:
This has been a tough cycle — midterms always are — but what’s been so amazing to me is how from the Senate to the House to Governor’s races and beyond, we’ve been keeping the other side on defense. So many of you have played leadershp [sic] roles building field programs, managing campaigns, or running programs from allied groups. It’s been incredibly insipiring [sic] to see.
That message went out at 2:59 pm … on Election Day. In exactly which Senate races did Mook think Republicans were playing defense? The GOP went on to win a net gain in gubernatorial ranks of three seats (and maybe four, if Sean Parnell pulls off a miracle in Alaska), won eight take-aways in the Senate on November 4th, and got its largest House majority since Herbert Hoover. That’s a remarkable level of denial, which is not exactly going to inspire confidence in Mook’s ability to deal with the tough realities of a presidential campaign.
Even so, leaking messages from a listserv seems like a particularly “mafia style” move, to use Mook’s own terminology, especially at this stage of the (non-)campaign. What’s behind this eruption? Aaron Blake agrees that the “bro-ey” messages aren’t the story, but rather a measure of the competition for what may be an extremely limited number of campaign positions on the Democratic side of the ledger in the 2016 cycle:
Welcome the Campaign Operative Hillary Clinton Sweepstakes. It goes like this: Clinton is basically the only viable Democratic presidential candidate right now. The problem is: There are lots and lots of operative who want to work for the winner. Usually, these operatives would be able to work for Clinton or Barack Obama or John Edwards (or Chris Dodd or Joe Biden, etc.), believing they had a good chance of winning.
This year, it’s just Hillary Clinton. Add to that the fact that she’s seen as the favorite to win in the general election, too, and stakes are even higher for ambitious would-be White House aides and campaign consultants. (For proof, look no further than all the folks who have “former Obama aide” on their business cards.) Hence, there is a campaign to join the Clinton campaign, and someone — anonymously — just dropped some opposition research on their opponents.
And here’s the real takeaway — at least as pertains to the 2016 campaign: The 2008 Clinton campaign operation (even more so than most of these kinds of campaigns) was a study in factionalism and power struggles. One of the biggest questions Clinton confronts as she tries to get her 2016 campaign off the ground is whether there will be similar kind of infighting and back-biting that might have ruined her chances in 2008. …
If aides are preemptively leaking e-mails about potential competitors for jobs, just think what will happen when they are asked to work alongside one another and begin to disagree on the strategy of a campaign that won’t always be smooth sailing.
In other words … pass the popcorn. And don’t order those Hillary Clinton general-election posters and swag just yet.