The Clinton Campaign Was Undone By Its Own Neglect And A Touch Of Arrogance, Staffers Say–47hj.,b43
In the closing weeks of the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s staff in key Midwest states sent out alarms to their headquarters in Brooklyn. They were facing a problematic shortage of paid canvassers to help turn out the vote.
For months, the Clinton campaign had banked on a wide army of volunteer organizers to help corral independents and Democratic leaners and re-energize a base not particularly enthused about the election. But they were volunteers. And as anecdotal data came back to offices in key battlegrounds, concern mounted that leadership had skimped on a critical campaign function.
Several theories have been proffered to explain just what went wrong for the Clinton campaign in an election that virtually everyone expected the Democratic nominee to win. But lost in the discussion is a simple explanation, one that was re-emphasized to HuffPost in interviews with several high-ranking officials and state-based organizers: The Clinton campaign was harmed by its own neglect.
Desperate for more human capital, the state party and local officials ended up raising $300,000 themselves to pay 500 people to help canvass in the election’s closing weeks. “They had staff on the ground and lots of volunteers, but they weren’t running a massive program because they thought they were up 6-7 points,” said the aforementioned senior battleground state operative.
Clinton herself has blamed FBI Director James Comey for re-launching an investigation into her emails only to clear her days before the vote; while operatives across the spectrum, including former President Bill Clinton in the campaign’s closing days, argued that she failed to adequately reach working class white voters that had been drifting away from the Democratic Party.
The more universal explanation, however, was that the data that informed many of the strategic decisions was simply wrong. A campaign that is given a game plan that strongly points to success shouldn’t be expected to rip it up. “We all were blinded, and even at the end, we were blinded by our own set of biases,” said Paul Maslin, a Madison-based Democratic operative and pollster.
On the margins as well, campaign operatives say the Clinton campaign’s failure to have a footprint did real harm. In Pennsylvania, for example, the campaign had a healthy canvassing operation and was flush with volunteers, many of whom poured in from New York City and Washington, D.C. But according to one longtime grassroots campaign operative who was involved in the 2016 cycle, leadership was focused predominantly on turning out their own voters and not on persuading others to come on board.
This was a perfectly logical strategic decision, considering the massive voter registration advantage that Democrats enjoy in the state. But it meant that the Clinton campaign wasn’t able to anticipate the surge in Trump support in the rural areas because they weren’t having conversations with voters there.
“Paid canvassers compensate for candidates who don’t have a huge volunteer base,” said the grassroots campaign operative. “Hillary Clinton had [a huge volunteer base]. It just wasn’t always in the places they needed it to be.”
source-daniel marans, michael tate, paul maslin, politics, huffington post, sam stein.