In late January when twenty top members of Ben Carson’s campaign staff, including his campaign manager resigned, it reflected the beginning of his gradual decline in the polls.
People aren’t jumping ship just yet, but there’s a bit of a staff shakeup over at the Hillary Campaign. As was the case with Carson, internal problems within a campaign are usually an indication that things are about to go downhill.
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 Clintons are not happy, and have been letting all of us know that,” said one Democratic official who speaks regularly to both. “The idea is that we need a more forward-looking message, for the primary – but also for the general election too… There’s no sense of panic, but there is an urgency to fix these problems right now.”
Ultimately, the disorganization is the candidate’s own decision-making, which lurches from hands-off delegation in times of success to hands-around-the-throat micromanagement when things go south.
At the heart of problem this time, staffers, donors and Clinton-allied operatives say, was the Clinton’s decision not to appoint a single empowered chief strategist – a role the forceful but controversial Mark Penn played in 2008 – and disperse decision-making responsibility to a sprawling team with fuzzy lines of authority.
“There’s nobody sitting in the middle of this empowered to create a message and implement it,” said one former Obama 2008 aide. “They are kind of rudderless… occasionally Hillary grabs the rudder, but until recently she was not that interested in [working on messaging]… Look, she going to be the nominee, but she’s not going to get any style points and if she isn’t careful she is going to be a wounded nominee. And they better worked this s— out fast because who ever the Republicans pick is going to be 29 times tougher than Bernie.”
The focus of their dissatisfaction in recent days is the campaign’s top pollster and strategist Joel Benenson, whom one Clinton insider described as being “on thin ice,” as the former first couple vented its frustrations about messaging following Clinton’s uncomfortably close 0.25 percent win in last week’s caucuses. Benenson, multiple staffers and operatives say, has been equally frustrated with the Clintons’ habit of tapping a rolling cast of about a dozen outside advisers – who often have the candidate’s ear outside the official channels of communication.
The result is a muddled all-the-above messaging strategy that emphasizes different messages – and mountains of arcane policy proposals – in stark contrast to Bernie Sanders’ punchy and relentless messaging on income inequality.
As was noted in the Washington Times, the last time Hillary had a similar campaign mix-up was after losing four primary states to Barack Obama in 2008. We all know what happened next – so maybe it’s a good thing that history tends to repeat itself.
[Note: This post was authored by The Analytical Economist]