It’s flu season here on the East coast and it appears that the Clinton campaign didn’t get its shot. It’s coming down with some horrible symptoms: running out of money, begging for free air time, ignoring upcoming primaries and caucuses.
By now you must have heard that Hillary loaned the campaign $5m of her “personal money.” OK, first, what does it mean that she “loaned” her campaign money. Is she going to pay herself back? I’m confused. Note that the amount she loaned herself is the same amount she paid Mark Penn, her campaign strategist. He claims he can’t give any of that money back because it was actually paid to his company, though I’m not sure whether he was referring to Burson-Marsteller, of which he is “worldwide CEO” or Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, of which he is president. I suppose it doesn’t matter which firm he is hiding behind.
In the meantime, other staffers, including campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, are working for free. The campaign is essentially blaming Ms. Doyle for this situation, claiming that it’s all because they overspent in Iowa. Hey, didn’t they lose Iowa? Wow, that backfired. And how much must they have overspent to now be so far in the hole that people are working for free and the candidate is writing the checks? Wasn’t this one of the harbingers of Giuliani’s demise?
In the midst of this money crunch, Clinton is calling for a debate a week between herself and chief rival, Barack Obama. How transparent is this? If you can’t afford to advertise in a state, a debate paid for by a network seems like a decent way to get some air time. Obama isn’t biting. His response is that he’d rather spend time with the voters. I heard Mark Penn on Morning Joe on MSNBC this morning claim that the best way to get in front of the voters was to be in a debate with Mrs. Clinton like the one prior to Super Tuesday which garnered 8.3 million viewers. Sure, if we could have another debate prior to the largest primary day in the history of primary days, including 22 states, I’d strongly urge the Obama campaign to go for it. That debate, however, was a one shot deal. We have had, thus far, 18 debates. There is apparently one more scheduled. Uncle. Debates take a full day out of a candidate’s schedule, a day the candidate could spend meeting with voters. If Hillary Clinton can’t afford to get in front of the voters any other way, that’s her issue. And it has been abundantly clear that the more time Obama spends with voters, the more votes he gets. Face time = votes for the Obama campaign. I’m sure this hasn’t been lost on Clinton.
And it appears that she doesn’t really care about getting in front of certain voters, anyway. There is apparently a clear strategy in the Clinton camp to cede the battle space in this weekend’s caucuses in Washington state, Louisiana, and Maine and next week’s primaries in Maryland and DC. She is making an appearance today in Arlington, VA, hoping to make up some ground in that state. By all accounts, though, she is holding most of her resources for the next large battleground states of Ohio and Texas on March 4.
In the meantime, the Obama campaign let slip to Bloomberg News some documents which indicate they see a loss coming in both OH and TX. I’m cynical enough to believe that this slip was no accident. This primary has become a battle of lowering expectations. What better way to do it than to accidentally send a reporter internal memos bracing for the worst? There’s no better way to mobilize an inspired base than that. And Obama has the money to act on this mobilization. Since Super Tuesday, he has raised $7.2 million.
Whatever innoculation Clinton missed, Obama obviously got. His campaign is surging. Clinton’s however, is struggling. We’ll see how this plays out in the primaries to come.