This past weekend, Mark Penn wrote an opinion piece for the Sunday New York Times titled The Problem Wasn’t the Message – It Was the Money. The implication is that after a strong financial 2007, raising more than $100 million, the campaign encountered inadequate fundraising for 2008 and that helped cost her the election.
First of all, the Hillary Clinton campaign raised huge sums of money, especially compared with the other candidates, not named Obama. Add to that, a number of her competitors were basically shut out by the media – Mike Gravel was the first one shut out of the debates, followed by Dennis Kucinich. John Edwards also had a tough time getting media coverage – that was until he dropped out of the race.
The Clinton campaign also had huge name recognition. Barack Obama was a relative unknown, with his lone true national exposure coming from a great 2004 Democratic Convention speech. Obama had to work from way behind just to introduce himself to the country.
Penn concluded in his Times OpEd, “And sometimes your opponent just runs a good campaign.” This is clearly the difference, not the money issue which he has spent every other paragraph trying to convince us was the problem.
Obama organized his campaign in all 50 states and it proved beneficial as seen in the results of every caucus. Clinton seemed sure that the primary would conclude on February 5th (so-called Super Tuesday) and even publicly stated so. As a result, she had no clear approach in how to deal with the campaign after February 5th and neither did her campaign. Obama went on a huge winning streak after that date and past her in pledged delegates.
Another factor is that Clinton overpaid her senior staffers, like Mark Penn, and as a result mismanaged her funds. Consequently, Clinton had to loan her campaign money even after raising over $200 million.
Obama, meanwhile, used his funds to organize an amazing grassroots campaign that took this country by storm – okay, much of the country.
In retrospect, maybe Penn is correct on all counts. Obama did run a good campaign and Clinton clearly did not. Penn was a major reason this campaign was run poorly and Clinton paid him millions for his poor management. If she had used this money to hire a better top campaign advisor, maybe she wins. So clearly, Penn is correct. Money was the issue in the campaign.