Sunday, May 18, 2008


For the past 7+ years, my conservative father’s stock snarky answer to anything that I pointed out about the Bush administration or the rubber stamp republican Congress was met with a comment to the effect of “oh, don’t you worry, President Hillary will come in and make everything all better”. I always told him that (besides the fact that he was dodging the issue to begin with) there was no way that she would be elected President.

A couple of years ago, when he made that comment to me, my reply was that she wouldn’t even get the nomination - and we even bet a dinner on it. He could only ask who would possibly get the nomination over her. Now, this diary isn’t about Hillary Clinton - it just happens that her Presidential campaign is the product of a Democratic Party mindset that has resulted in oh-so-narrow losses (for the most part) and even some “key victories” in certain ever-shrinking lists of “swing states”.

Now, the “50% + 1” approach worked for the republicans for a number of years, and it (possibly in a self fulfilling prophesy) took a number of states, races and seats out of Democratic Party reach as a result of not even competing in these places. And while her campaign and chances may not be over, this old style of running a winning campaign most certainly is over.

After all, it was inevitable, right?

I guess it was a fairly safe bet for me to say that she wouldn’t get the nomination - since the Democrats are not like the republicans in that the candidate who put in his (and yes, “his”, because it is the republicans we are talking about here) time in and was “next in line” became the nominee. Remember - as late as 2003, Joementum was considered the frontrunner and likely candidate. Bill Clinton in 1992 was certainly not the early favorite, and Gary Hart was the early favorite in 1988 as well.

What this is about more than just how the early frontrunner doesn’t necessarily get the nod (or doesn’t usually get it) is the reason why she lost.

When I bet my dad that dinner, I am not sure that Obama had even declared his candidacy - or whether my dad even knew who Obama was. But I knew that there would be a new way of running a campaign - by using the technology and outreach of the internet, the grassroots, the netroots and social networking in order to organize, raise money, share experiences and GOTV.

We saw the start of that in 2004 with Dean’s campaign. We saw Dean beat the Democratic Party over the head in order to get buy in for the “50 state strategy” - and it has worked in a huge way. Credit some of it to Obama being able to draw in so many new voters (although if not him, then it very well may have been Edwards or someone else). Credit the 2006 elections, the “macaca moment” raising viral videos to a whole new level.

Either way, is was clear to many people way smarter than me that a targeted state, short sighted (and not looking past the first “Super Duper Ultra Mega Tuesday” was somewhat shortsighted), top down campaign that didn’t take advantage of this technology and drastically shifting landscape wouldn’t win if there was to be one that was able to capitalize on the “50 state strategy” and connectivity/outreach potential that the internet/social networking/current technology provides.

That isn’t to blame Senator Clinton for not seeing this and taking this approach. She ran a campaign that she thought would be successful. One that sold her as “the inevitable nominee, so get on the bandwagon early”. But she, and the other top advisors didn’t anticipate (or did anticipate and chose not to utilize it) that there was another way to organize - another way to run a national campaign that would maintain a large degree of control but also involve people in all corners of every state of the country - not just “the big ones” or “the swing ones” or whatever else that excludes a large portion of the population.

And yes, Senator Clinton, with the two decades of name recognition and pretty impressive credentials, not to mention the Clinton name, brand and “machine” behind her drew a huge number of votes in every state. More than McCain in most states - even in states where she lost and McCain won.

But another candidate was able to overcome all of this - and get more votes than her in almost all of these states, even with all of the built in early advantages for Clinton.

Which is a testament to a new style of running a winning campaign - and one that should make all of those who rely on the “old model” of running a campaign very scared. Including McCain, Clinton and anyone else who doesn’t get on board.

After all, it was only inevitable that this would happen.

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