Sunday, May 31, 2015

Clinton on South Carolina Campaign Trail

"On trail in S.C., Clinton faces old ghosts; Taking pains to avoid repeating 2008 gaffes" by Annie Linskey Globe Staff  May 29, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to South Carolina this week and began to confront one of the most pointed threats she faces so far on the campaign trail: echoes from her campaign of seven years ago.

Cognizant of how her campaign angered African-Americans in the Palmetto State — especially when her husband made series of comments viewed as dismissive of Barack Obama — Clinton took pains to make amends. Before showing up, she reached out to a key South Carolina leader who had been critical. And when Clinton spoke to activists, she twice referred to the 2008 primary, at one point calling it a “pretty vigorous” campaign.

Few in the audience needed a reminder.

“We are Southern, honey. We hold a grudge for a long time,” said Phyllis Harris, a 61-year-old African-American woman from Camden. She recounted how she felt Clinton disrespected voters in the state in 2008 by packing up and leaving for Tennessee before she conceded.

“She needs to convince me, to take the time to convince my people,” Harris said.


I suppose everyone can say that except a white person, and it really is time to get past the semantics.

South Carolina is foremost among several early primary states where the ghosts of Clinton’s past campaign haunt the trail, posing thornier problems in the early stages of her campaign than her declared opponents. The memories of 2008 may not threaten her place in the polls, but exorcising them is crucial if she wants build the kind of enthusiasm that will keep stronger party rivals on the sidelines and inspire volunteers to promote her candidacy.

The last Clinton campaign kicked off with a series of large events where hundreds packed into town hall meetings and rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire to cheer her. This time the campaign has stopped trying to elevate her to rock-star status.

“She’s not as effective from the podium’’ as Bill Clinton and Obama, said Kurt Meyer, a Democratic activist in Iowa. “Neither of them, fine as they are speaking to 1,000 fans, can compete with her in the six or eight people sitting around the table.”

Meyer should know. A local Democratic leader, he was tapped to sit with Clinton at a coffee shop during one of her first events in Marshalltown, Iowa, last month. The Clinton campaign filmed the friendly exchange and posted it on her Facebook page. It has been viewed more than a quarter million times.

He made the LIST!

The overwhelming size of the Clinton staff was also a problem in the past. Meyer said he brought it up in an early meeting with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. “I said, ‘One of the things you all have to know about a rural county is if you get off a Greyhound bus and 47 self-important people get off . . . it doesn’t work in Mitchell County.”

During Clinton’s first pass through the state in mid-April, Meyer was pleased to see that the cadre of campaign aides staff had shrunk. But during her more recent stop he started hearing reports that those numbers began to swell, particularly at what was supposed to be an intimate gathering at a private home in Eastern Iowa. Meyer complained to the Clinton campaign. “They said, ‘You were right. We had way too much staff in Dubuque,’ ” he recalled.

Nowhere is the Clinton campaign more haunted than in South Carolina, a state where the primary contest descended into a racially charged brawl. At one point Bill Clinton downplayed the significance of the first Southern primary by pointing out that Jesse Jackson won it in 1988, a remark many saw as diminishing both the state and the historic nature of Obama’s rise. He also referred to Obama’s stance on Iraq as a “fairy tale.” The quip offended Representative James Clyburn, one of the state’s most important black leaders, because he viewed it as a backhanded attempt to paint the entire Obama campaign as make-believe. The race drama peaked when the former president let loose a frustrated rant accusing the Obama camp of playing a race card. “Once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant,” he said. He then blamed the press for accepting the Obama spin. “They are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for.”

It's even worse when the charge is anti-Semitism.

This year Hillary Clinton has tried to mend fences, hiring a former Clyburn aide, Clay Middleton, to run her operation in South Carolina. She also called Clyburn several days before her trip Wednesday. The two discussed her campaign and upcoming visit, said Amanda Loveday, a Clyburn spokeswoman. (He was out of town during her stop and didn’t attend any of her events.)

Clyburn doesn’t plan on endorsing anyone for the primary this time and he eagerly invited Clinton’s challengers to visit in a statement to the Globe.

“I welcome any and all Democratic presidential candidates to South Carolina, a state that offers distinctive opportunities to hone messages in relatively inexpensive media markets,” Clyburn said.

Scars also remain in the Nevada desert, where activists recall the hand-to-hand combat between the Obama and Clinton camps over the state’s caucuses. That fight ended up in court, with the Nevada State Education Association, which backed Clinton, filing a federal lawsuit over the state’s voting rules. Clinton also failed to secure a coveted endorsement from the state’s culinary union, which is the largest and backed Obama.

Clinton won the state’s popular vote, and held out an olive branch to the union on her recent visit. “I’ve met with a lot of culinary workers and other workers who keep the economy going strong,” she said, recalling her 2008 days in the state.

“The last time the mistake they made was they took a lot of things for granted,” said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada. “This time it seems like they are much more interested in listening to folks who might not have agreed with her in the past.”

As long as they can stage and script it.

Even in Massachusetts, Clinton and her team must grapple with another unpleasant echo of 2008 — the state’s senior senator. Last time it was the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who wound up endorsing Obama, a huge blow to Clinton. This time Clinton must court Senator Elizabeth Warren, who holds sway over a huge liberal fan base and whose help will be crucial in getting such activists fired up if Clinton makes it to the general election.


"Matthew Hrono, 25, of Salem, who received an associate’s degree in science, said he liked Warren’s speech, but had wished for something more. “I was hoping she’d announce she was running for president,” Hrono said. “You can’t win what you don’t fight for,” Warren said."

Looks like they have agreed on a marriage of convenience despite the sell out.

In New Hampshire, Clinton’s ghosts are friendly. Its primary voters revived Bill Clinton’s presidential hopes in 1992 when he came in second, and it injected momentum into her bruised campaign eight years ago, when she won it after losing Iowa.

Those memories were on Clinton’s mind when she stopped in the Granite State several weeks ago. “I came here in 1991,” Clinton said while chatting with one man on her first stop in the state at a bakery in Keene. “I celebrated my birthday here.”

Later, at a business round table held nearby she brought it up again, saying she was “thrilled” to be back in the state. “I have a lot of wonderful memories.” 

It's a bit different for Bill.


The primary looks hard to predict, and there are still questions regarding the delegate count.

Same with the donors:

"Democrats lag in lining up donors with deep pockets; Republicans have secured stable of billionaire givers" by Eric Lichtblau New York Times  May 31, 2015

WASHINGTON — Over the last few months, Harold M. Ickes, a longtime ally of Hillary Rodham Clinton, has helped organize private meetings around the country with union leaders, Clinton backers, and Democratic strategists.

The pressing topic: Who will step up to be the Democrats’ megadonors in the 2016 presidential race?

Republican contenders have already secured hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments from a stable of billionaires, including a Wall Street hedge fund executive, a Las Vegas casino magnate, a Florida auto dealer, a Wyoming investor and, of course, the Kansas-born billionaires David H. and Charles G. Koch.

But none of the biggest Democratic donors from past elections — for example, Chicago investor Fred Eychaner, climate-change activist Tom Steyer, and entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg — have committed to supporting Clinton on nearly the same scale.

“No one has stepped forward as the savior,” said Matt Bennett, a longtime Democratic consultant in Washington.

The leading super PAC backing Clinton, Priorities USA Action, has won commitments of only about $15 million so far, Democrats involved with the group’s fund-raising said.

While the absence of a competitive race for the Democratic nomination gives Clinton more time to catch up with Republican rivals, her allies are planning to push the party’s wealthiest donors for more money than most of them have ever given.

In planning sessions and one-on-one meetings with donors, Ickes, who is a Priorities USA board member, and other Clinton supporters are discussing how to raise as much as $300 million for Democratic outside groups. That is almost twice as much as Democratic super PACs and other outside groups spent to help reelect President Obama in 2012, when conservative super PACs far outspent liberal ones.

This ambitious goal will require the emergence of a new class of at least 20 Democratic donors who can give $5 million or even $10 million each. Ickes said recruiting them would not be easy.

“Our side isn’t used to being asked for that kind of money,” Ickes said. “If you asked them to put up $100 million for a hospital wing, they’d be the first in line.”

The hurdles begin with the candidate. While Clinton has committed to meeting personally with potential super PAC donors, people close to her say she has not yet grappled with the kind of big-donor courting that has framed the early months of the Republican race.

Clinton — who, with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, earned at least $30 million during the last 16 months — also faces a perception that she is not exactly lacking cash.

Related: (Clinton, for his part, got over his aversion to big paydays after leaving office, collecting $105 million in speaking fees between 2001 and 2013, including from many corporate sponsors, according to a Washington Post analysis.)

That's her hubby!

Inflated estimates of her campaign budget — a figure of $2.5 billion was widely circulated — have been a headache for her campaign and for Priorities USA. A more realistic fund-raising target for her campaign, they say, is around $1 billion.

One challenge for Ickes and other fund-raisers is convincing potential donors, large and small, of the growing importance of super PACs to Hillary Clinton’s chances.


The rich lady I will be voting for:

"One of the most unlikely presidential candidates is getting awfully good reviews these days. Republican Carly Fiorina, a former corporate CEO who has never held public office, is winning plaudits for her ability to give a stump speech (typical zinger, aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton: “Flying is not an accomplishment; it’s an activity”), her willingness to parry questions from journalists, and her skill in turning even hard questions to her advantage. After a recent appearance in Iowa, the line of activists waiting to meet Fiorina snaked down a hallway. The director of a super PAC supporting her candidacy described voters’ reaction like this to The New York Times: “She’s impressive. I want to see her six more times.” In New Hampshire, they are likely to have that opportunity.... For all the terrific publicity presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is getting, she may nonetheless be in danger of not even qualifying to stand on the same stage with the multitude of Republican hopefuls vying for the party nomination. That’s because, at least for the first GOP debate, sponsored by Fox News, candidates will be required to place in the top 10 of an average of the most recent national polls. And if that calculation were done today, Fiorina (along with several others) would be shut out. Voters seem to like her when they see her. Trouble is, what if they can’t?

I won't be watching anyway.