Thursday, May 22, 2008

Men for Clinton Supporters to Blame

In the hotly contested Democratic primary for US President, many supporters on both sides have focused on things they see as unfair.  Inevitably, issues of race and gender arise.  Some people have voted for Senator Obama because he is black and some for Senator Clinton because she is female.  In both cases these voters hope their candidates will break through a glass ceiling and provide a role model for those to come.  I think this is fine.  Others vote against Obama because he is black or against Clinton because she is female.  This is of course terribly wrong, and supporters of both candidates should decry both sins.   But I think that the vast majority of people, such as myself, voted for who they thought was the best candidate, not for issues of race or gender.  Obama has won a good fraction of the white vote and Clinton has won a good fraction of the male vote.

Some Clinton supporters have blamed her apparent loss on sexism.  While I think it is true that some, particularly in the cable media, have made some misogynist comments, they are but a drop in the bucket of verbiage that has been spewed ad nauseam in this long contest.  No, I think there are four main reasons that Barack Obama is now within reach of the nomination:
  • Senator Obama is a thoughtful, talented candidate with a powerful message of change.
  • The Obama campaign has excelled strategically at the large (50 state strategy) and the small (cool website).
  • There are millions of voters who were waiting for a candidate like Barack.  We existed before his campaign, he just energized us.
  • Senator Clinton's campaign made two key strategic blunders.
It is the last point to which I devote the rest of the post.
Senator Clinton's campaign was run mostly by two men, Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson.  Mark Penn has since stepped down from the top job.  The two key mistakes they made were not campaigning in the caucus states on Super Tuesday, and not having a strategy for after Super Tuesday.   They assumed that winning big states like NY, NJ, CA, as well as Clinton's home state of Arkansas, would seal the deal.  But the Obama campaign cobbled together enough pledged delegates from IL and some smaller states to make the day nearly a tie.  When the Clinton campaign did not achieve a blowout, they had no strategy to compete in the next set of states, and they lost a dozen in a row. These were fatal blows to the Clinton campaign.

I think this was a matter of hubris.  Now maybe it is unfair, but hubris does tend to be associated with men.  And the men that displayed that hubris, the men that destroyed Hillary Clinton's chances, were Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson.  So Clinton supporters, please, if you want to blame men for Senator Clinton's impending loss, you need look no further than her own cocky campaign strategists.

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