Sunday, January 31, 2016

In Iowa, Hillary Clinton Looking to Avoid Mistakes of the Past

She should be good, if they have as vaunted a ground game as everyone says.

At Bloomberg, "Clinton’s Plan to Win Iowa: Do the Opposite of 2008":

Avoiding the mistakes of the past—and emulating Obama—are the Clinton campaign’s twin caucus obsessions. But are they fighting the last war?

Last spring, as he was just beginning to develop a plan for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Iowa, Michael Halle asked for help from some of the people who had the clearest view of her defeat there last time. He invited Clinton’s seven Iowa regional field directors, all of whom had moved on from her political orbit, on a conference call for what amounted to a highly delayed postmortem of her 2008 organization in the state. During the call, what stuck most vividly with Halle was the question he learned that Clinton organizers had put to Iowans when they had their first interactions with them over the phone or at doorsteps in 2007. Will you support Hillary? they had asked.

When volunteers went back to the voters shortly before the caucus to provide them with information on their precinct locations, those who had earlier identified as Clinton supporters were flaking at an unexpectedly high rate. Now they were not ready to declare themselves caucus-goers. When they were forced to think through the specific demands that entailed—to declare their support in public, at a scheduled time, before all their neighbors—many backed off, or responded with a flat “no.”

Over seven years, a mythology has emerged about Clinton’s disregard for the peculiar folkways of Iowa caucus. There were the canonical examples of Clinton’s brushing off local expectation of collegial intimacy, like the vivid descriptions of her regal entourage of imperious staffers more focused on their BlackBerries than the citizens in their midst, or the Bell 222 that the campaign dubbed the “Hill-a-copter” as it shuttled her among farm towns. Then there were the almost comically indulgent expenditures, from the hundreds of snow shovels the campaign gifted to residents who had weathered many winters without any politician’s munificence to the nearly $100,000 in caucus-night sandwich platters that Clinton purchased from the Hy-Vee supermarket chain, even though many counties expressly forbid food at precinct locations. (After learning about the catering order from a canvasser who visited a Hy-Vee executive, Obama campaign officials subsequently contacted every county chair and reminded them to enforce their rules.) In hindsight, Clinton’s approach to Iowa was part of an institutionalized disdain for the caucus process nationwide that ultimately helped to doom her first candidacy for president....

The assiduous commitment Clinton has made to not repeat her mistakes in Iowa is the prime reason her advisers can remain sanguine about their prospects in the face of another ascendant challenger drawing enormous crowds and small-dollar contributions from idealistic liberals. The aspect of Barack Obama’s campaign from which Clinton has learned the most is not the hope and change, but the nuts and bolts—and the better one understands the Iowa Democratic caucus, one realizes that it, more than any other venue in American electoral politics, sets those two objectives at odds with one another. “This was a big input piece from activists, from former precinct captains last time,” Halle remembered, in a conference room that was, like all the spaces at headquarters, named for one of the state’s cities. “‘One, they need to understand Iowa. Two, they need to understand the caucus,’” Halle said.
That's a great piece of political writing.