Former Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn blames Clinton’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on disagreements within her camp on how to go after Barack Obama, and on squandering money too early in the primaries.
“The reason I would have gone after him early was precisely because I didn’t underestimate the power of a fresh, new candidate who also has appeal to the African-American vote and the latte voters,” Penn tells GQ magazine in an article published today.
“To put [those constituencies] together into a very strong coalition – supported by money and the press – absolutely I saw all that,” he boasts.
“How do you stop something like that? You don’t stop something like that by being ‘warmer’ or by giving an interview on a personality show,” he says.
“I wanted to question the basic underpinning of his campaign: that he didn’t have the usual experience of somebody running for president, and that the positions he took on Iraq – that were revered by the press – didn’t really hold up when you look through his record in the Senate.”
Penn says former President Bill Clinton wanted Hillary Clinton to go head to head with Obama on the issue of the war with Iraq, but the rest of Hillary’s camp didn’t want her to tackle it based on her refusal to apologize for voting in the Senate to authorize the war.
Penn says the camp felt this made Clinton vulnerable and that it could be a losing proposition for her, so they always pulled back.
“People had a different idea of how to win against [Obama]. I had the idea that the best way to win against him would have been to go against him like any normal candidate, and as early as possible,” Penn says.
“I often say, once the cat is out of the bag, you really can’t put the cat back. It becomes a ten-times-harder task. We fundamentally disagreed on whether to take him on [regarding] Iraq.
Penn also can’t understand how $100 million amassed in 2007 somehow disappeared after the first primary contest in Iowa. He maintains the money could have been better used by Clinton’s camp and was a decisive factor as to why she failed to build better organizations in the primaries that followed.
“It was always anticipated that if things didn’t go well in Iowa that there would be $25 million left in the kitty in order to go into the next round of states,” he says.
“Instead, the cupboard was bare.”
When, at the end, Clinton finally suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee, she reportedly had more than $31 million dollars in debt, including $11 million of her own money, and more than $5 million owed to Penn, he says.
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