La Grande Dumpage

February 26, 2008 3:43 p.m.

Clinton supporter Leon Panetta dumps on the Clinton campaign.

As you know, I believe that it is an inexorable fact of the universe that Mark Penn is a vastly over-rated, fairly mendacious pollster whose refined tactic of saying incredibly stupid things on behalf of his candidates seldom serves them well. I’ve done a little back research to flesh out my recollections. And as near as I can tell the guy hasn’t won a contested Democratic primary either in a decade or maybe forever. He’s the classic rooster whose one well-timed break he’s interpreted as an ability to make the sun rise.

All that aside, I’d like to return to something I’ve written many times here at TPM. Name me the losing campaign that didn’t suck and wasn’t made up of complete imbeciles. And name me the winning campaign that wasn’t run on a genius master plan. Winning looks like genius, a fact not easy to miss in various aspects of everyday life. And losing actually creates the reality of confusion and inconstancy in even more direct ways.

Disarray and lack of a plan are easy to avoid when you’re winning. Because when you’re winning, you just keep with the plan that’s working. Losing campaigns, at a certain point, have little choice but to desperately flail between various new messages since obviously they need to move from what clearly isn’t working to something that might. Same applies to staff shake ups.

I’m not saying Clinton ran or is running a great campaign. And it’s too early for post-mortems, though, let’s be honest, not by much. But this reality of our inherently distorted view of the campaign has to be front and center in any analysis. The clearest error that jumps out at me, which many, many people have noted, is that the Clinton campaign simply was not prepared for a race that was not resolved on Super Tuesday. Of course, from their perspective, a whole lot had to go wrong before that even became an issue.

The various instances of poor planning and insufficient preparation look pretty striking right now, yes, but we’re looking through a very distorting prism.

Late Update: Penn hedging his bets? Penn’s loyalty surcharge no longer within the budget?

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