Reading about whether or not Clinton would hire Mark Penn again has reminded me of the 2008 Democratic Primary. I volunteered in various capacities on that campaign, the biggest being running the phone banks in San Jose. While Obama’s nomination now seems inevitable, looking back it really wasn’t. I remember everyone in 2007 talking about Clinton being the presumed nominee and how Obama had a bright future ahead of him but not as our next President. And the reality was, they were right.
Clinton went into the 2008 Primaries with the greatest name recognition, fundraising base, and ground team of any of the candidates. As Obama as a state senator from Illinois in 2004, he had to start from scratch. Also, the Clinton campaign (along with Giuliani’s) managed to convince most states to have their primary or caucus on February 5th, as early as possible. This was to shut down any potential upstart challenger in the early states.
So Obama had his work cut out for him. If I had to point to one thing that cost Clinton the election, it was not putting staff in February 5th states like Idaho and Kansas. The fact Obama put resources in those states was accidental-they had raised more cash than expected and decided to contest these states, as David Plouffe documented in his book. However, Mark Penn actually didn’t realize the Democratic primary wasn’t winner-take-all so he failed to put any resources in those smaller caucus states. In the end, winning Idaho by 50 points netted as many delegates as winning New Jersey did, so Super Duper Tuesday was a draw and not the knockout blow Clinton needed.
In the end, Clinton was still a formidable candidate. While we talk about the left being upset at her Iraq vote or her mismanaged campaign, one has to remember she was able to stay in till the very end. I honestly believed after Obama won those 10 primaries after Super Duper Tuesday, Clinton would pack up and concede and her support would give up and rally behind Obama, but she was able to push on till the very end. As I said, in an alternate universe where she had kept Obama’s margins smaller in the caucus states and had put resources in the states after Super Duper Tuesday, she would have netted several hundred delegates more than Obama did and would have been the nominee.
One thing I’ve always remarked on is if Clinton were to run in 2016, she would most likely have a lot of former OFAers on staff. I found this funny because there were a lot of people who joined the Obama campaign in no small part because of Clinton’s Iraq War vote and the general feeling the Clintons sold out on things like “welfare reform.” Now, 8 years later, time will heal all wounds.