Shake-up time for Team Hillary?

It’s never a good sign when leaks from a campaign begin talk of personnel changes after the first two events in the primary season. Few people expect Hillary Clinton to beat Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, practically his back yard, but Team Hillary went all out for a big win in Iowa, only to end up in a virtual dead heat with a candidate they consider a progressive flash in the pan — or a temper tantrum. Suddenly, though, Politico’s Glenn Thrush and Annie Karni hear drumbeats of panic emanating from Hillary HQ:

Hillary and Bill Clinton are so dissatisfied with their campaign’s messaging and digital operations they are considering staffing and strategy changes after what’s expected to be a loss in Tuesday’s primary here, according to a half-dozen people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Clintons — stung by her narrow victory in Iowa — had been planning to reassess staffing at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters after the first four primaries, but the Clintons have become increasingly caustic in their criticism of aides and demanded the reassessment sooner, a source told POLITICO.

The talk of shake-up echoes what happened in 2008 – when Clinton was on the verge of sacking her campaign manager and several top communications officials – before her surprise win here bailed out her beleaguered staff. Over time, however she slowly layered over top officials, essentially hiring old hands – like Hillaryland stalwart Maggie Williams and pollster Geoff Garin – to run the campaign while the previous staff were quietly relegated to subsidiary positions.

Hillary denied these reports last night, but clearly something is failing. The Clintons spent years putting themselves back into position for Coronation 2.0, and once again they’re getting outboxed by another Senate backbencher, even in a two-person race. Chris Cillizza wonders whether the common issue between the two floundering presidential bids is so basic that Hillary can’t fix it — because she’s the problem:

The lone, major common thread between the 2008 campaign and the 2016 campaign is Hillary (and Bill) Clinton. Which raises that most uncomfortable of possible explanations for the problems experienced by Hillary Clinton in her two presidential campaigns: It’s the candidate. …

Forgetting history in this case doesn’t mean that Hillary Clinton is doomed to repeat it. Sanders, for all of the remarkableness of his rise in the polls, is not Obama circa 2008.  Despite his surprising strength in Iowa and New Hampshire, he has shown little ability to broaden his support base beyond young people and well-educated, affluent whites. Without finding a way to appeal to older voters and black and Hispanic voters, the math in a Democratic primary simply doesn’t add up for Sanders.

Well, so far it’s not adding up for Hillary, either. If those demographics were enthusiastic about her, Sanders’ demographics within the Democratic coalition wouldn’t be able to keep up.

But, the very fact that Clinton finds herself in a real race against a 74-year old socialist who openly admits he will need to raise middle class taxes to pay for his programs suggests that all is not right in Clintonworld.

Rather than fire someone or add lots of someones, the Clintons might be best served to look in the mirror first. The common variable in both of these campaigns is them. And they are also almost certainly the only two people who can fix what ails her current bid.

All of this may end up being academic. After New Hampshire, Sanders’ momentum is expected to stall out in South Carolina, and the Clinton machine should have key advantages in the big Super Tuesday contests on March 1st. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. But what if the CW is wrong? The CW a year ago had Hillary breezing her way to the nomination, too. Aaron Blake writes that analysts may have overestimated Hillary and underestimated Bernie, and that the intermediate caucus in Nevada could shock the campaign:

After New Hampshire, though, the states get significantly more diverse; basically every one of the next couple dozen states to vote is less white than Iowa and New Hampshire.

We’ve called this Clinton’s “nonwhite firewall.” Basically: More-diverse electorates start voting, and Clinton has a better chance of putting together a series of wins and ending Bernie Sanders once and for all.

But while Clinton might indeed be a shoo-in in South Carolina, that isn’t so clearly the case in Nevada.

Technically, Nevada is actually the more-diverse state of the two. Non-Hispanic whites comprise just 51.5 percent in Nevada, compared to 64 percent in South Carolina. Nevada has many Hispanics, while South Carolina has a large black population.

But to assume that both play to Clinton’s strengths in similar ways is to miss the point.

Nevada would be a big win for Bernie if he can pull it off. Blake goes through the data to show why the “non-white firewall” might not extend to the interior West, but it could be more basic than that. Sanders has shown that he can win, especially in Iowa, where Hillary was widely expected to have a better showing. A big win in New Hampshire would only boost his prestige, and have more people (yes, even Democrats) wonder why they should turn out for an untrustworthy and damaged candidate like Hillary Clinton.

The only real argument for supporting her second presidential bid was her inevitability, getting on board early to circle the wagons later. If the campaign needs to circle the wagons already, that might convince more Democrats that her candidacy is a failure, and that it’s time for Plan B — even if that means Bernie.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023