By Beth Sussman - 07/01/08 05:08 PM EDT
While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) regrets an opportunity lost, Harvard University senior Tyler Goin is doing the same.
Goin was to begin a summer internship on the Clinton presidential campaign just two days after she conceded the nomination to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Now, without a campaign to intern for, Goin is at home in Michigan, making calls to numerous Democratic organizations and campaigns in hopes of finding a similar summer experience.
But Goin passed up several other summer options — a community service trip to Tanzania, vacationing in Thailand, researching his senior thesis in Zambia — to accept the internship with the Clinton campaign, and now he’s finding that his labor is not in as high demand as he anticipated.
“I had faith that my labor would be wanted by the Democrats in some capacity if she did not win, and so far I have found that is not the case,” Goin said. “It’s quite discouraging.”
While the Obama campaign is slowly absorbing high-level Clinton aides and fundraisers, experts are surprised that the concept hasn’t caught on with lower-level staffers.
The Obama campaign seems to be breaking with convention by not recruiting staffers from Clinton’s campaign. Such recruitment is typical after a campaign shuts down, according to George Washington University political management Professor Gregory Lebel, who worked on the Democratic presidential campaigns of George McGovern, Gary Hart, Al Gore and Howard Dean.
“People know who the good people are, and as campaigns go out of existence, the campaigns that survive will make appeals to them,” he said.
Lebel said that he’d expect low-level staffers from Clinton’s campaign to go to Obama’s operation.
“The volunteers and interns have a wealth of on-the-ground work that is going to be a real important aspect of the Obama campaign,” he said. “I would think young interns who worked in the primaries would be at a real premium, if they wanted to go.”
As interns and ex-campaign workers begin job searches, Clinton resumes work in the Senate.
But most people understand that she, and her aides, need to decompress after such an intense primary season.
“I lost one of these races, as you remember, four years ago, and it takes a while to heal,” Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean said recently.
But even though some staffers feel a similar sense of loss following the Clinton campaign’s suspension, they have not been able to take time off.
“I miss it a lot,” said Shaun Beaulac, who worked on the campaign for a year as a field organizer. “I feel an empty part of my heart.”
Goin said it is “depressing” not to be on the campaign, but said he felt he had to explore other options immediately.
A former field organizer who worked for Clinton’s campaign for more than a year said many campaign staffers went out to bars together after the loss.
“There are still ‘Hillary happy hours,’ ” said the field organizer, who asked not to be named. He is now working as a waiter in New York until he returns to school in the fall.
He was offered jobs at other campaigns, including Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.), through political contacts, but decided to take time off from campaigning because, he said, other efforts would not live up to the “prestige” of the Clinton campaign.
He was surprised that the Obama campaign did not reach out to him. “Nobody I know has been contacted by [the Obama] campaign,” the field organizer said. “A lot of people on the Hillary campaign have been let down because they thought they would be courted a lot more.”
The Obama campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Goin assumed another organization, such as the DNC or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, would honor the internship offered to him.
“I had the impression that the Democrats would want all this free labor,” Goin said. “I miscalculated, thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal when Hillary dropped out.”
The Clinton campaign notified its 35 summer interns via e-mail after the Montana and South Dakota primaries that, with the campaign dismantling, interns had two options: Come to work at the national headquarters, where staffers are tying up loose ends for the campaign, or the campaign would help them find other summer positions.
About 20 interns chose to stick with their Clinton internships, where they are now helping thank supporters, archive materials and collect information for the Federal Election Commission, intern coordinator Dana Kelly said.
For the interns who wanted to look for other summer jobs, Kelly said she “used the connections that we had.” Other campaigns, like Democrat Mark Warner’s Virginia Senate campaign, opened positions for Clinton interns, as did consulting groups that had worked on the Clinton campaign.
But Goin, who worked on the campaign from school during the past year, going door-to-door in New Hampshire and organizing events on campus, is still looking to work on the national campaign level.
He has called Obama’s campaign several times, but to no avail, and is surprised that no one anticipated the personnel problem that would arise from two campaigns going full-force until summer.
Someone should have realized that “when one [campaign] ends, there’s going to be so many free volunteers and interns and people who are willing to work for a little just to see someone win,” Goin said. “I thought there would be more planning ahead for a massive national campaign being de-structured.”
Paid Clinton campaign aides are finding the job search more fruitful.
Max Nacheman finished his undergraduate coursework at the University of Pennsylvania in December 2007, a semester early, in order to work on the Clinton campaign.
From January until May, Nacheman did field organizing and political work in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Indiana and the national campaign headquarters in Arlington.
While he hoped to work on the campaign through the fall, Nacheman knew to keep in touch with other political contacts in case Clinton did not clinch the nomination.
Still, while he was on the campaign, he kept focused and refused to search for another job until the Clinton campaign was suspended; he believes that commitment is aiding him in his job search.
“There’s nothing better than saying I was on the presidential campaign and saying I was focused on it,” he said. When he began reaching out to contacts at Democratic organizations and local campaigns, Nacheman told them, “As long as there’s a chance [for Clinton], I won’t commit to any job.”
Other campaign workers, however, are ready to break from the fast pace of campaigning.
Beaulac, the field organizer who graduated from State University of New York at Geneseo in 2005, worked on the Clinton campaign from July 2007 through the last primaries. After working 85-hour weeks, she says she is ready to take a break from politics as she decides what’s next.
“The people who worked on the campaign for a year, we’re pretty tired,” she said. “I’ve seen the ups and the downs of it.”
After being on the road with the campaign, making stops in Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana and South Dakota, Beaulac has moved back home to Rochester, N.Y. She is weighing her options and figuring out “how I can fit in politics but also have a normal life.”
Beaulac says she learned a lot on the campaign, but she is disappointed.
“Of course your main objective is to take her into November, but it’s never a sure thing,” she said. “It’s always going to be a void in my heart.”