Fixing Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

Fixing HillaryBob Shrum thinks Hillary Clinton has run a horrible campaign and will likely struggle to stay in therace through February 5. He offers some friendly advice for a “long shot” recovery:

Clinton’s massive mistake – and the final chance to fix it
Let Hillary be Hillary. Throw away the product packaging – those poll-tested small-bites of policy – and set out a big case about what she wants to do in the next four years, not what she has done for the past 35.

The pursuit of the presidency is not a résumé contest. Otherwise a one-term congressman named Lincoln never would have beaten Stephen Douglas, “the little giant” of American politics; Kennedy never would have prevailed against Nixon, and the young Bill Clinton never would have ousted the first George Bush from the White House.

The conventional caveat is that things could change. World events could refocus voters on Hillary’s strengths – or on Obama’s weaknesses. Yet as of today, it is far more likely that Hillary Clinton won’t be giving an acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Maybe Obama, the unifier, will let her speak in prime time.

I remain unconvinced that Clinton is in as bad a shape as Shrum and others believe. It’s true that sweeping Iowa and New Hampshire will give Obama substantial momentum but, as noted yesterday in my Obamamania post, Clinton’s got massive leads in most of the big states. And she has almost as much cash on hand as all her challengers, including Obama, combined.

Shrum’s absolutely right that she should focus on the future, rather than the past. My guess is that his “Let Hillary be Hillary” advice, though, would be a disaster: There’s a reason she’s being packaged.

It’s also worth asking: Why would anyone follow Shrum’s advice, anyway? He’s a bright guy and obviously very knowledgable and experienced. He’s also 0-for-8 in presidential elections.

Photo credit: Spin Cycle

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. independent says:

    Is there a Hillary left under all the layers of focus-group testing? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see her win as she’s an easy opponent for any Republican in Nov., but it seems like the wheels are spinning and she’s not going anywhere. Of course, she has a nice lead with the superdelegates, but Obama has the momentum.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Rely on Shrum’s long track record of successes.

  3. DC Loser says:

    What Dave said. Bob Shrum would be the last person I’d ask for campaign advice given his track record. Or maybe he’s just angling for a job with her? Now that’ll be the kiss of death.

  4. Paul says:

    Saturday Night Live captured Hillary the best. When asked whether her vote for the Iraq resolution would cost her in the primaries, and she still would have voted for it knowing what we now know about Iraq, her character (Amy P.) said: “I think most Democrats know me. They understand that my support for the war was always insincere. Of course, knowing what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still be elected president, I would never have pretended to support it.”

    Bill seems genuine even when he is fake. Hillary seems fake even when she is genuine. Plus, unlike Obama, it is too late for her to remake her image because most people have a settled view of her already. I’m not sure this is a great way to pick a President (we sure could have used some of Al Gore’s wooden competence over the last eight years). But it surely would be ironic if the campaign let Hillary be Hillary but only because the focus groups said they should.

    As a final thought in fairness to Hillary, given make-up of our electorate, I’m not sure I’d want any President, from either party, to actually believe all of the ridiculous things you have to say to get elected.

  5. Tano says:

    Hillary’s large lead in the larger states is pretty meaningless. Its like the national numbers – the baseline name-recognition assessment of people who havent been paying close attention. Those numbers will be extremely sensitive to the dynamics emerging from the first few states, and will probably turn on a dime.

  6. Stephen says:

    Her “massive lead,” per Rasmussen’s National Poll, tumbled from 17% before Iowa to 4% afterwards (today).