Garin Watching

April 8, 2008 12:25 p.m.

There are some telling nuggets in the Times piece on Geoff Garin’s new role running strategy and crafting message at the the Clinton.

One is the way in which other politicians choose to praise him. Take Clinton’s New York colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer: “Geoff Garin is the straightest shooter. He doesn’t try to shift the numbers or slant the numbers to buttress his argument.”

Wonder who he’s talking about?

Also notable is AFSCME Chief Gerry McEntee’s comment. He says with no equivocation that he called Clinton on Saturday and told her to fire Penn. Since he’s been a huge asset to and advocate for Clinton, I would not be surprised if that call played a decisive role in Penn’s ouster.

And this passage stands out …

Mr. Garin, 54, joined the Clinton campaign several weeks ago to augment strategy. His elevation could herald a less negative tone as the candidate tries to catch Mr. Obama.

Inside the Clinton team, Mr. Penn advocated increasingly sharp attacks on Mr. Obama as Mrs. Clinton’s best option. Long before he joined the campaign, Mr. Garin argued that her route to success lay more in presenting her strengths than in assailing her opponent.

“The sweet spot a campaign needs to hit is the intersection between what makes the candidate special and what the voters feel they need,” he explained, praising Mrs. Clinton’s values, spunk and resilience.

Recalling a recent meeting with Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Garin said: “I had the same reaction so many people have: I wish everyone could see her this way. If we could help make that happen, that would be great.”

As I’ve written here many times, there’s an almost universal tendency to believe that failed campaigns were run by idiots and winning ones by geniuses. And I believe any evaluation of Sen. Clinton’s campaign has to begin with a recognition that she wasn’t alone in the campaign. Obama has just run a really good campaign, both on the level of message and execution. But I do not think there’s much doubt that Clinton’s blunt force attacks have been counter-productive for her. I believe they soured many people who went into the voting phase of the contest open to supporting her. To the extent that was Penn’s doing (and we’ll need to wait for the post-mortems to really know) it seals his reputation as one who is as willing to compromise on every point of the progressive policy agenda as he is to savage fellow Democrats.

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