February 20th, 2008
01:05 PM ET

Self-Inflicted Wounds in the Clinton Campaign

Last night’s Democratic primary in Wisconsin was like a bolt of lightening, illuminating the political landscape as few other events have done.  One thing became clearer than ever: the deep troubles of the Hillary Clinton campaign are due in significant measure to its own misjudgments.

I said last night on AC 360 that some folks on her team are guilty of political malpractice, and I meant it. 


Why in the world did they abandon the Democratic caucuses to Barack Obama, letting him run virtually unopposed so that he racked up big delegate counts in all 11?  (In one of the most interesting observations of the campaign, Dan Balz of the Washington Post points out that on Super Tuesday, Barack actually won more delegates in the Idaho caucus than Hillary did in the big New Jersey primary.) 

Why, too, did the Clinton folks not foresee that after Super Tuesday on February 5, they could and should have been able to win some victories before Ohio and Texas on March 4?  Instead, they failed to mount a vigorous campaign anywhere and he has racked up 10 straight triumphs, building huge momentum. 

And why in crucial moments last night – when the country was watching to see what she would say – did they send her onto a stage in Ohio with virtually nothing new to say (not even a gracious concession to her rival)?  

It is all a great mystery, because the Clintons have on their team some of the finest minds and most seasoned veterans anywhere in politics. I don’t get it.  It will be fascinating to learn more during the post mortems.

Meanwhile, the Obama team saw their openings and barreled through them with enormous skill.  They haven’t won yet.  He and Michelle have both made some rookie mistakes in recent days, and it is possible that he will make a big one between now and March 4.  Clearly, the press is also starting to subject him to tougher (i.e. more negative) scrutiny. 

There is always the possibility, too, that Hillary will truly find her voice – and a message that actually works.  But as that bolt of lightening showed us last night, Obama  is riding a powerful wave forward – and it increasingly looks like the nomination has become his to lose. 

-David Gergen, 360° Contributor

Filed under: David Gergen • Raw Politics
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