Clintons Get Desperate as Obama Surges Ahead

I wrote this for today's Beyond Chron.

The Clintons can't help it - they don't know any other way to campaign.  Reeling from a 3rd-place finish in Iowa, Hillary Clinton arrived in New Hampshire on Friday with a vain attempt to reinvent herself as an "agent of change" - while pandering to young voters who were the key to Barack Obama's victory, and taking more questions from the audience.  Meanwhile, her consultants promised to go negative on Obama - while Bill Clinton lamented that the "biased media coverage" against them means they'll have to sling mud.  In the final New Hampshire debate, Clinton pursued a "divide-and-conquer" strategy by using John Edwards' rhetoric to attack Obama - as she accused the Illinois Senator of not being consistent about where he stands.  But rather than take the bait, Edwards defended Obama by saying that they are both "powerful voices of change" against the status quo - which is what this election is all about.  Clearly, the way that Clinton is responding to the current climate is dooming her nomination.

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Can Hillary Clinton Learn from her Mistakes in Iowa--or even History?

I saw this firsthand in the precinct I attended, what Morley is taling about in this post. Penn, I heard in an interview after the caucuses, acknowledged the strategic error. Jerome.

Morley Winograd is co-author with Michael D. Hais of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics.

Despite all their efforts to put a positive spin on their Iowa showing on the plane to New Hampshire, the Clinton team couldn't avoid acknowledging the most important mistake they made in Iowa--discounting the youth vote.

Not only did Clinton lose to Barack Obama by an almost six to one margin among Millennial Generation (those under 25) caucus attendees, but also her weakness in this age group was the key to her overall loss among women. While Hillary carried the over 45 female vote 36%-24%, Obama won women under 45 by a 50%-21% margin and the surprisingly strong turnout among young caucus goers turned that margin into an overall defeat among the female constituency Hillary was counting on the most. Had she and her team only read their history, they wouldn't have been surprised by this outcome.

Every eighty years a "Civic" generation, like the GI Generation and now the Millennials, comes along with a determination to use their size and their facility with communication technology to change the political culture of America. 2008 will be the first election when Millennials, the largest generation in American history, born between 1982 and 2003, will be eligible to vote in sufficient numbers to tip the political scales to candidates who they favor, but they have already made their presence known to those analyzing election data, not just the latest poll results. They, along with the last remaining members of the GI Generation, were the only age groups to cast majority votes for John Kerry in 2004. The YouTube inspired involvement of Millennials in the Senate races in Virginia and Montana was the difference in those two close elections, returning Democrats to majority status in 2006. But those initial tremors are minor compared to the tsunami of change that Millennials will set in motion in the 2008 elections.

Jaded pollsters, like Clinton's Mark Penn, and columnists, like Thomas L. Friedman, who have been waiting for the emergence of a sizeable youth vote and youthful activism for decades, completely ignored this emerging phenomenon believing that today's youth would disappoint those hoping for any sign of political commitment, just as people under 25 had done ever since the 1970s. But that attitude, common among Baby Boomers who believe the entire world should think and act the way they do, represents a significant misreading of history.  Gen Xers, who adored and still revere Ronald Reagan and distrust government, were responsible for the decline in voter participation among young people in the 1980s and 1990s, but as studies by Harvard's Institute of Politics have demonstrated, ever since 9/11 today's youth have voted in increasing numbers, at a growth rate that surpasses that of all other generations. Now that they have a candidate like Barack Obama who appeals to this generation's partisan passion for changing America, their impact will reverberate across the country as loudly as it did in Iowa last week.

A careful observer of the Obama and Clinton campaigns' youth turnout efforts could have seen the results coming. Hillary's team were told to invite young people over for a night of watching TV shows like Gray's Anatomy or The Office, and use that opportunity to engage them in a conversation on the issues. Obama's team went about finding its cadre of supporters by using their website, built off of the FaceBook operating system or platform, in tune with Millennial's social networking habits. Once they found potential supporters, Obama's team didn't ask them to watch television, something Millennials do infrequently, unless it's on their laptop with shows downloaded from the Net, but to hang out at the local bar. There Michelle Obama, or "the closer" as her husband calls her, asked them to come out on caucus night and change America's politics forever.

Clinton's attempt to make her gender define the nature of the historic change in this election missed another important trait of Millennials. This generation is the most gender neutral, race-and ethnicity-blind group of young people in American history. Only sixty percent of Millennials are white; twenty percent have an immigrant parent; and, ninety percent have a friend of another race. While Baby Boomers are justifiably proud of their idealistic efforts on behalf of civil rights and women's rights, Millennials take diversity as a given and tolerance as the only acceptable behavior. That's why, on caucus night, young women voted for Obama and his message of hope, while older women felt motivated to support the first credible female candidate for President.  Once again, the Clinton's circle of Boomer advisors just couldn't understand why everyone wasn't thinking and behaving like they did. .

The generational differences in the two candidate's teams were embarrassingly obvious during their speeches to their supporters on caucus night. A collection of Silent and Boomer Generation former leaders, from Madeline Albright to Wesley Clark, not to mention Bill Clinton, was planted behind Hillary. Obama's backdrop was his kids, his wife and throngs of young supporters who knew that their efforts had created an historic moment for the country. Given this generational bias, really a blind spot in their thinking, it's hard to believe Hillary can fix her problem with Millennials before the final campaign showdown on February 5, let alone in the few days between Iowa and New Hampshire. But if she can't find a way to appeal to this emerging generation quickly and on its own terms, she will become the first, but certainly not the last, candidate whose failure to recognize the historical pattern of generational cycles in American politics has cost them their future.  

Morley Winograd is co-author with Michael D. Hais of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics (Rutgers University Press, March 2008)

Why would you lie about this?

We all remember the three campaign managers on Chris Matthews all at once.  It was an interesting interview to say the last.  Chris Matthews asked Mark Penn specifically about the Shaheen incident/resignation specifically.  

MATTHEWS: Did you tell him to step down?

PENN: The senator made that clear. No, he stepped down. And he made clear...

MATTHEWS: Do you tell him to step down? It took 24 hours for him to do it. Do you think he did it in time...

PENN: No. No.

That was after the debate last week.  So why does it matter?  Well today, in the media blitz, the story has changed.

"We asked him to step down," Clinton said during a media blitz that saw her go on six morning news shows. "Every time somebody in my campaign says something that we don't believe is right, appropriate, we take care of it... We move quickly. And we will keep doing it."

Why would you lie about it in the first place?  This just does not seem like something you would lie about.  Is it a huge deal?  No.  I'm not going to pretend like it is.  

It is just another smack of dishonesty.  Who likes being lied to?  I don't.  

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The Politics of Hope

The Clinton campaign has responded to the barrage of articles in the last few days detailing the plans of her opponents to go negative and attack Clinton.

They have a front-page story on their news site with links to news articles detailing the negative campaigning strategy:

They link to two videos from her opponents promising to not attack Democrats:

Edwards video:

Obama video:

And finally, the Clinton campaign has released a memo from pollster/strategist Mark Penn: se/view/?id=3968

Memo: What are the Politics of Hope?

To: Interested Parties
From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist
RE: What Are The Politics of Hope?

There's been a lot of chatter lately about the "politics of hope." But what does the term mean? What are the "politics of hope?"

Does the "politics of hope" mean launching attacks on one candidate? Or does it mean laying out a vision for the American people? Does it mean questioning a rival's integrity? Or does it mean talking about the change we need?

The Clinton campaign believes the "politics of hope" should be about outlining how our candidate will reverse the policies of the Bush Administration and give America a new beginning for the 21st Century. That's why Senator Clinton has spent the last few months detailing:

-- Her plan for ending the war in Iraq.

-- A health care plan that provides coverage for all Americans and that builds on the present system.

-- A middle class economic plan that rebuilds the road to the middle class by making our economy work for all of us, not just some of us.

-- A plan to make college more affordable by expanding the Hope Tax Credit and Pell grants.

-- The American Retirement Security Accounts to enable people to save for retirement and take those savings from job to job.

-- A plan to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act and provide a better work-family balance.

-- How she would use aggressive diplomacy to avert war and deal with Iran.

Contrast that with the campaigns of our two leading rivals, both of whom made their names by promising a "politics of hope" and have now abandoned that promise.

Losing ground in the polls, Senator Obama announced over the weekend that he will abandon the politics of hope and attack Hillary in tonight's debate. Senator Edwards, who rose to prominence in 2004 by eschewing attacks on other Democrats, formally announced last night that he is going to attack Senator Clinton's character.

Considering that both Senators Obama and Edwards made their names by pledging to be positive, the last thing one would have expected was for either of them to go out and announce with pride that they were now going to go negative on a fellow Democrat. It's unprecedented in my experience.

Of course, Hillary will not hesitate to set the record straight on the issues that opponents raise about her. But as we move deeper into the Fall we are seeing the clear contours emerge:

One candidate is defining the "politics of hope" while the others are abandoning them.

Want to guess which one?

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Charlie Rose Interviews Mark Penn

Video is now available from the Charlie Rose interview with Clinton pollster/strategist Mark Penn. As many of you know, Penn was the pollster for Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election, both of Hillary Clinton's NY senate races, for Tony Blair's elections in the UK, and for Bill Gates/Microsoft. He was also the pollster, early on, for Al Gore in 2000 until they they had a falling out over fundamental campaign strategy and Gore went in a different direction.

The first half of the show is Obama advisor Samantha Powers. The Penn interview starts at the 28 minute mark. Drag the slider.

I don't want to give the interview away because is it truly thought-provoking, starting with Penn's fundamental premise of American politics: that the voters aren't stupid, they make rational issued-based decisions.

The interview covers a lot of ground, including Penn's new book Microtrends that suggests the public is choosing many varied lifestyles and as few as 1% of the population can have a signficant impact.

Rose and Penn spend a lot of time on politics...from the premise of Bill Clinton's 1996 election (a bridge to the 21st Century) to Gore's defining the 2000 election (the people versus the power) to the most in-depth synopsis of Hillary Clinton and her campaign I've heard including the emotional power of the woman's vote. "A majority of the country, 54%, is women and they've never elected one of their own." Penn says that, if Clinton can increase womens turnout by 10%, she will blow up the electoral college map.

Penn talks at length about the disconnect between the "elites" (who vote on personality) and the "regular" voters (who vote on issues).

I'll stop now, before I ruin the interview. It's fascinating, intelligent conversation that puts the run of the mill mainstream media to shame.


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