As someone who’s just loved Bill Clinton since I was right out of college, I feel like this is about to get painful. He’s now going after Bernie Sanders. And he’s (rightly) saying he needs to be careful about what he says as the election gets “hotter.” Yes, you do, Bill. You really do.
The attacks I heard yesterday don’t seem terribly out of line. I think there’s a good argument that Sanders somewhat one-dimensional diagnosis of the country’s ills doesn’t capture the fullness of the challenges we face as a country. But now we’re also seeing the inevitable rumor mill about a post New Hampshire Clinton campaign shake up. This is starting to feel a lot like how 2008 did when Barack Obama started to look like he was an existential threat to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Now, I want to be clear that there are few better campaigners than Bill Clinton. And virtually anyone would want him speaking and campaigning on their behalf in a tight race. Look at the speech he gave on behalf of President Obama at the 2012 convention. But when I say ‘virtually’, Hillary Clinton may be one of the few who shouldn’t.
No, I don’t expect she’ll take him off the trail and she probably shouldn’t. But I remember how this went down eight years again and man, the pitched battle with Barack Obama just got Bill all unhinged. He said a bunch of things he never should have said and I think he probably realized he should never have said. As you’d expect, when Bill is campaigning for Hillary it’s personal. And he doesn’t quite think straight. So it’s not that I think Bill shouldn’t campaign for Hillary or that he shouldn’t be allowed to. But I have real doubts about whether he helps her when he gets in that mode.
There’s something especially combustible about Bill campaigning for Hillary in a Democratic primary. Every right to? Absolutely. But, as I said, I think the unique dynamics of personal and political just sort of unhinges the guy. It didn’t start too bad with Obama in 2008 but it got real dark real quick.
And the “shake up”. Please no shake up. And if there has to be a shake up please no weeks of leaks about the shake up in advance of the shake up. This is the drama that is really the worst thing about the Clintons. And, Good Lord, I don’t want to see this go like it did in 2008.
One of the key things to remember is that it’s hard for a campaign to look smart when it’s doing poorly. A struggling campaign has to try new things. In most cases those new things won’t work any better than the old things. So then you’re not only struggling but also”desperate” and “confused” and “in turmoil”. It’s a vicious cycle.
But with all that said, winning campaigns tend not to have “shake ups.” Because the candidate know what they are about and there’s no need for shake ups. One underperforming person can always be sidelined. A ‘shake up’ is usually about the candidate. And not in a good way.