Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hillary Clinton's brilliant campaign

Matthew Yglesias:
[I]t's inconceivable to me that Obama's campaign could have gotten off the ground had Clinton spent 2002 and 2003 as a lonely liberal voice speaking out against the war, then spent 2005 and 2006 being completely vindicated in her judgment. It's not just that Obama wouldn't have beaten her, he wouldn't have run at all -- it would have been preposterous. She would have faced a from-the-right challenge in the primary that would have gotten some attention but never posed any real threat.

But Clinton's error on the war opened up serious doubts about her substantive and political judgment about one of the highest-profile issues of the moment. In many ways it's a testament to how brilliant her campaign was all throughout 2007 and 2008 that they never allowed the war issue to bury her, considering that an overwhelming majority of Democratic primary voters think she made a mistake.
It does seem true to me that Clinton's Iraq vote never really hurt her quite as much as you might have expected. One reason is probably that she had so much company within the Democratic Party, including among some who ran for the nomination this year. But another reason has to be that Hillary Clinton, politician, skillfully maneuvered around the issue, pivoting sharply to the left on Iraq policy without ever quite apologizing for her original vote the way John Edwards did.


haahnster said...

Her campaign's brilliance is overwhelming. I haven't been this impressed with a front-runner's performance since the Patriots ended their previously undefeated season with a Superbowl loss to the Giants!

haahnster said...

Also, if in fact Obama wouldn't have had an opening through which to enter the race without her war vote, then I would argue that her war vote hurt her much more than you're indicating. In fact, it was fatal. The guy who's beating her wouldn't have even been running if she'd voted No.

Rob said...

Well that is true, if the war vote allowed Obama to enter the race, which I think it did, then it turned out to be a fatal political error by Clinton. But it wasn't really her campaign's error per se. I think Yglesias means the work of the campaign itself, i.e. moves made in 2007-2008.

haahnster said...

I'll concede the point that they've dodged the war vote issue fairly well during your limited timeframe of 2007-2008. I'd argue it was less skill than just a shift in national attention to the worsening economy.

That said, I would argue that Hillary's war vote was not isolated from her campaign. She was positioning herself as hawkish for an '08 general election, no? Surely she didn't make that decision in a bubble. Let's face it, the woman has been 'running for president' for a loooooooong time.

Also, the many strategic blunders of HRC's campaign preclude me from using the word "brilliant" (or any of its forms).

candycanesammy said...

calling hillary's campaign "brilliant" is pretty laughable. if it was so brilliant, SHE would be the presumptive nominee. instead, she's all but been buried by a half-black freshman senator with a muslim name who has admitted to doing coke. yep.

instead, it is barack who has run the brilliant campaign by implementing the 50-state strategy, raising shitloads of money from tons of different small donors, being an amazing orator, and many other small things i don't feel like listing.

hillary has political skill for sure, which is why she's a senator and why she's been able to run for president as long as she has, but to say she's run a brilliant campaign is too much of a stretch for me.

Rob said...

Well I don't know. Is any losing campaign by definition non-brilliant? I don't think so. But I will concede that any campaign that starts out with a massive advantage and still loses falls short of brilliant.

So, okay, I give. But the basic point is not that the Clinton campaign hasn't made many, many mistakes, it's that there is still something impressive about the way she maneuvered around her war vote. It really should have been a massive albatross for any candidate running in a Democratic primary in 2008

P.S. ... Massive props to the 50-state strategy. Theorized by Kos, built upon by Howard Dean...perfected by Obama? We will see soon enough...