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February 24, 2008

Clinton Staff Woes, Part 2

The New York Times' Patrick Healy documents the continued unraveling of the Clinton campaign. Think if it as the practical reason to expect a withdrawal soon after her March 4 losses to go with the political reasons I described earlier.

Morale is low. After 13 months of dawn-to-dark seven-day weeks, the staff is exhausted. Some have taken to going home early — 9 p.m. — turning off their BlackBerrys, and polishing off bottles of wine, several senior staff members said.

Some advisers have been heard yelling at close friends and colleagues. In a much-reported incident, Mr. Penn and the campaign advertising chief, Mandy Grunwald, had a screaming match over strategy recently that prompted another senior aide, Guy Cecil, to leave the room. “I have work to do — you’re acting like kids,” Mr. Cecil said, according to three people in the room.

Others have taken several days off, despite it being crunch time. Some have grown depressed, be it over Mr. Obama’s momentum, the attacks on the campaign’s management from outside critics or their view that the news media has been much rougher on Mrs. Clinton than on Mr. Obama.

And some of her major fund-raisers have begun playing down their roles, asking reporters to refer to them simply as “donors,” to try to rein in their image as unfailingly loyal to the Clintons.

One of the problems Clinton will have when this is all over is dealing with the disappointment of the truly devoted. The ones who have invested so much money, time, or heart in her candidacy that they hear her cackle and think how kind and genial she is. They think she won this week's debate. And they think that she can still win the nomination without some kind of catastrophe at Obama HQ. The true believers.

Those are the folks most like to stay angry long enough to truly hurt her future in politics. Betrayal and heartache are powerful motivators in the short term and lots of these people are going to feel it. More than that, the frustration of defeat is going to be a long term deterrent. Clinton's failure, and for a good portion of these people it will be seen as her failure and not just something that can be blamed on some mythical anti-Clinton media, will hang around her neck for a long time.

Democratic constituencies are especially bad about this. It's why Democrats end up putting up a fresh face every four or eight years (whereas Republicans happily go with a paid-your-dues-nows-your-turn model). They get close and then they get burned and then they don't want to take a risk like that on a proven loser. Clinton's exit strategy is to figure out how to escape the usual pattern. I think she should be thanking her lucky stars she's losing in a primary and not the general, because that really would be the end.

Still, Clinton's got her work cut out for her. Let me put it this way, I left a note on the Facebook wall of a good friend saying that it didn't look good for her candidate. We used to argue like crazy during Election 2000 when we lived together and she just recently changed her Facebook photo to a picture of Clinton. After I left my note, she not only deleted the message. She un-friended me. We'd been friends all the way through high school and college. I introduced her to her husband, my first college roommate. Now she's so pissed that I pooh-poohed Clinton that we've become un-friends?

She's going to be even angrier on March 4th or 5th.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:41 AM

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