This article on the Clinton campaign in Michigan shows how things don’t work. In a political campaign, on the ground data is crucial. If you don’t know what’s REALLY happening you can’t be effective. Yet the Clinton campaign seemingly acted like a badly run corporation and ignored the rumblings that things were not going as well as they seemed.
Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.
They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.
SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.
Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.
Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.
“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”
Flip Michigan and leave the rest of the map, and Trump is still president-elect. But to people who worked in that state and others, how Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes and lost by 100,000 in states that could have made her president has everything to do with what happened in Michigan. Trump won the state despite getting 30,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did when he lost it in 2004.
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….
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.
The people in Brooklyn were so sure of their models that they ignored multiple warnings that there were storm clouds. In many ways running on models is like an army going into battle with maps as the only form of intelligence. Without scouting, it doesn’t end well. The Clinton campaign spent far too much time in Brooklyn and Chappaqua, and far too little actually on the road. The problem wasn’t so much that Clinton stayed home too much, which was a real issue, but that everybody stayed in town when she did. Trump was everywhere and that meant his team was too. It’s becoming apparent that that may have been more important than how ad buys were bought. In light of the stories of volunteers not being able to act without orders and literature not being available because all too frequently the Clinton campaign could not be bothered to make sure that the basics were handled and indeed diverted resources from those basics, then it’s not hard to see that things turned out the way they did. The problems with the way the Clinton campaign did business are not going to end with the last election. All it takes is one election where a volunteer to get turned away and they may never come back. Not only will you have lost that volunteer, but you’ve lost the commitment they had to your cause. Do enough of that and your cause is done.
It’s said that the Clinton Campaign spent 1.2 billion dollars on the election. Yet it seems that most of that was wasted on pointless ad buys in places like Chicago and New Orleans where the dead and zombie votes would ensure that the Dems always win. The dead and zombies don’t have TV’s and don’t need to be told how to vote.
There an old, old saying that “all politics is local.” Even in the day of packaged candidates and massive TV ad campaigns that is still true. Especially if the candidate is a turkey. The Clinton campaign needed the people on the ground because they needed that influence to overcome Clinton’s bad numbers. Clinton had the worst approval ratings and worst face presence of any candidate that I have seen since I’ve been alive. Worse than Mondale, worse than Kerry, worse than Nixon. Add to that the fact that every time she opened her mouth it seemed like she was insulting another long term Democrat constituency and ot was obvious that the campaign was going to need all the on the ground support it could get. Yet it was obvious that building enthusiasm on the ground was something that the Clinton campaign did not care very much about. For instance, I live in a Democrat neighborhood, that’s politically active. Yet in a quick walk around I saw NO Clinton yard signs. And I live less than fifty miles from Clinton HQ and there’s a good chance that some of the Clinton team lives in town. Yet nobody made sure that yard signs were available.
A political campaign is too a certain extent an exercise in illusion up until the end. The only day that really matters is election day. But you have to be able to convince the voters that you can win. You have to build enthusiasm and make people care enough to go to the polling place and cast their ballots for you. The Clinton campaign made the mistake of treating the voter in the same more or less inhumane way that businesses treat many of their customers these days. The problem with that is that way of doing business only works if there are no real choices. This time there was a choice and people took it.