Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential race by rewriting the rule book. Conversely, Hillary Clinton seems to have lost the race by simply ignoring the same rule book.
This Politico piece on how Hillary Clinton’s arrogant campaign lost Michigan is well worth it’s own link for the rich aroma of schadenfreude wafting off it:
Politico spoke to a dozen officials working on or with Clinton’s Michigan campaign, and more than a dozen scattered among other battleground states, her Brooklyn headquarters and in Washington who describe an ongoing fight about campaign tactics, an inability to get top leadership to change course.
Then again, according to senior people in Brooklyn, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook never heard any of those complaints directly from anyone on his state teams before Election Day.
In results that narrow, Clinton’s loss could be attributed to any number of factors — FBI Director Jim Comey’s letter shifting late deciders, the lack of a compelling economic message, the apparent Russian hacking. But heartbroken and frustrated in-state battleground operatives worry that a lesson being missed is a simple one: Get the basics of campaigning right.
Clinton never even stopped by a United Auto Workers union hall in Michigan, though a person involved with the campaign noted bitterly that the UAW flaked on GOTV commitments in the final days, and that AFSCME never even made any, despite months of appeals.
The anecdotes are different but the narrative is the same across battlegrounds, where Democratic operatives lament a one-size-fits-all approach drawn entirely from pre-selected data — operatives spit out “the model, the model,” as they complain about it — guiding Mook’s decisions on field, television, everything else. That’s the same data operation, of course, that predicted Clinton would win the Iowa caucuses by 6 percentage points (she scraped by with two-tenths of a point), and that predicted she’d beat Bernie Sanders in Michigan (he won by 1.5 points).
“I’ve never seen a campaign like this,” said Virgie Rollins, a Democratic National Committee member and longtime political hand in Michigan who described months of failed attempts to get attention to the collapse she was watching unfold in slow-motion among women and African-American millennials.
Rollins, the chair emeritus of the Michigan Democratic Women’s Caucus, said requests into Brooklyn for surrogates to come talk to her group were never answered. When they held their events anyway, she said, they also got no response to requests for a little money to help cover costs.
Rollins doesn’t need a recount to understand why Clinton lost the state.
“When you don’t reach out to community folk and reach out to precinct campaigns and district organizations that know where the votes are, then you’re going to have problems,” she said.
From the day Clinton released her launch video, the campaign knew she’d struggle with enthusiasm. Yet they didn’t do many of the things voters are used to seeing to give a sense of momentum, insisting that votes didn’t come from campaign literature, door knocking, commitment to vote cards or the standard program of sending absentee ballot applications to likely voters rather than just appealing to the people once they’d already ordered the ballots.
“It was very surgical and corporate. They had their model, this is how they’re going to do it. Their thing was, ‘We don’t have to leave [literature] at the doors, everyone knows who Hillary Clinton is,’” said one person involved in the Michigan campaign. “But in terms of activists, it seems different, it’s maybe they don’t care about us.”
Michigan operatives relay stories like one about an older woman in Flint who showed up at a Clinton campaign office, asking for a lawn sign and offering to canvass, being told these were not “scientifically” significant ways of increasing the vote, and leaving, never to return. A crew of building trade workers showed up at another office looking to canvass, but, confused after being told there was no literature to hand out like in most campaigns, also left and never looked back.
“There’s this illusion that the Clinton campaign had a ground game. The deal is that the Clinton campaign could have had a ground game,” said a former Obama operative in Michigan. “They had people in the states who were willing to do stuff. But they didn’t provide people anything to do until GOTV.”
The only metric that people involved in the operations say they ever heard headquarters interested in was how many volunteer shifts had been signed up — though the volunteers were never given the now-standard handheld devices to input the responses they got in the field, and Brooklyn mandated that they not worry about data entry. Operatives watched packets of real-time voter information piled up in bins at the coordinated campaign headquarters. The sheets were updated only when they got ripped, or soaked with coffee. Existing packets with notes from the volunteers, including highlighting how much Trump inclination there was among some of the white male union members the Clinton campaign was sure would be with her, were tossed in the garbage.
According to Hillary’s final FEC report, the Clinton campaign spent $576,402,561 on the race. Don’t think that printing campaign literature, sending volunteers door-to-door or mailing absentee ballots is cost-effective? Fine. But if you have half a billion dollars to spend you do it anyway. What else are you going to do with the money?
Well, if you’re Clinton, you spend money running up the popular vote count in places where it doesn’t help get you electoral college votes:
But there also were millions approved for transfer from Clinton’s campaign for use by the DNC — which, under a plan devised by Brazile to drum up urban turnout out of fear that Trump would win the popular vote while losing the electoral vote, got dumped into Chicago and New Orleans, far from anywhere that would have made a difference in the election.
And when regional offices tried to go to the DNC for help, they were refused because the Clinton campaign didn’t want them talking to the DNC:
With Clinton’s team ignoring or rejecting requests, Democratic operatives in Michigan and other battleground states might have turned to the DNC. But they couldn’t; they weren’t allowed to ask for help.
State officials were banned from speaking directly to anyone at the DNC in Washington. (“Welcome to DNC HQ,” read a blue and white sign behind the reception desk in Brooklyn that appeared after the ouster of Debbie Wasserman Schultz just before the July convention).
A presidential campaign taking over the party committee post-convention is standard, but what happened in 2016 was more intense than veterans remember. People at the DNC and in battleground states speak of angry, bitter calls that came in from Brooklyn whenever they caught wind of contact between them, adamant that only the campaign’s top brass could approve spending or tactical decisions.
“Don’t touch them. Stay away,” one person on the other end of the call remembered Clinton campaign states director Marlon Marshall saying after hearing about a rogue conversation between a battleground operative and an official at the DNC. “You can’t be calling those people and making them think something is coming when nothing is.
Mook himself made a number of those calls.
To Brooklyn, this was the only way to shut down what they perceived early as an effort to undermine the campaign’s planning, DNC officials playing good cop as they made promises they couldn’t keep to friends in the states, took credit for moves Clinton’s staff already were making, or looked to dig up trouble to use against them later.
So not only did the Clinton campaign have a thermocline of truth to keep unpleasant messages from reaching the top ranks, they created their own and then strengthened it out of turf defense, arrogance, paranoia, and ego.
As in most of these Clinton 2016 autopsies, all the insider fingers seem to be pointing at campaign manager Robby Mook as the designated scapegoat for their collective failure. And I’m sure he had a hand. But the fact the Clinton campaign was an arrogant, out-of-touch operation reflected the presence of an arrogant, out-of-touch candidate at the very top of it.
Read the whole thing.