Saturday, January 20, 2007

"The Different Operations"

Matt Stoller:
I don't really know how important a political operation really is in a Presidential campaign. I have a sense that it matters, that the ability of a campaign to do the little things right adds up to a sense that the person can run the country. I'm not sure, though. I've only seen one contest up close.
Here's my sense of where the campaigns are. I'm no fan, but Hillary Clinton's announcement has been handled perfectly. The blog outreach was well-done, and it seems that calls went out to the right people at the right time. I have a well-placed friend today, a state operative not in a primary state, who got a call from a top Clinton strategist to tell him that Senator Clinton was going to call him in the next few days. Meanwhile, he can't get a call returned from either the Edwards or the Dodd camp despite having closer ties with both. This is consistent with what I know of the various operations.

Though I'd probably back Edwards if you forced me to pick someone, the Edwards team is just not competent. They don't return calls. Despite being very good listeners, they don't play well with others, they are quite ineffective at coalition work, they are very top-down, and they are slow. On announcement day, their Plus Three website was down for at least part of the time, and they accidentally slipped up and released it early. You can smell that the progressive position Edwards is taking isn't quite real - he's trying, but he's not generating a crop of activists, the way Dean or Clark did in 2004. He could, but there's no sense of empowerment - it's all about Edwards, and there are two other superior quality narcissists in the race.

I don't have a sense of the Obama team. I know his fundraising operation is very strong, and that top stars all over the country want to be in his camp. If anyone is generating a new crop of activists, it's Obama, and except for the college organizing, it's pretty pale and not particularly creative. Clinton's operation is extremely top-down and very good. I'm no fan of her governance by checklist or her screw the base mindset, and I think she'll be a bad President. But she is meticulous and it shows. Clinton is a very strong candidate and no one has the chops to take her down right now.

Anyway, I'm trying to think of a way to describe the Dean and Draft Clark movements. What made them special is how they created the space for a new crop of leaders to emerge and take power outside of the traditional campaign structure. That's not happening in 2008, as both the environment differs and the campaigns are smothering supporters instead of nurturing them. Leadership is going elsewhere, and perhaps that's a good thing. Enough of this imperial Presidency.

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