Presidential Campaign

Hillary’s latest blame game refutes everything her team told us in 2016

When Hillary Clinton sat down at the 2017 Code Conference to discuss her loss, not one person was surprised that she failed to accept any responsibility. According to her, the only misjudgment she made was using her personal email server, which there were no rules against, nor did anyone tell her not to… both of which are false.

Yet, this wasn’t the truly bizarre part of this interview, nor was it even when she blamed the loss on “guys over in Macedonia.” Instead, her most odd claims were that she was somehow the “victim” of being in the lead, and that the Democratic Party was incapable of the task at hand.

{mosads}If you survived the round-the-clock news coverage of the 2016 election, this new theory will not sound familiar at all. In fact, Hillary’s surrogates and campaign staff spent nearly all of the election cycle telling us precisely the opposite.


For Clinton’s latest claims to be true, we would have to erase from memory the fact that Barack Obama set the new global standard of political data and field operations in both 2008 and 2012.

Many of those same individuals were at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on the Clinton campaign, or in consulting roles in 2016. Her veteran field operations team did not suffer collective amnesia on how volunteers should ring doorbells, and the data folks did not “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” their own memories at her Brooklyn headquarters.

The truth is that Hillary was simply an awful candidate who lacked any sort of popular message, no matter how many canvassers or targeted email blasts she had. Her campaign and its media supporters reminded us daily how their significant lead and epic ground game were ensuring that it was all but in-the-bag for Clinton.

By October, campaign manager Robby Mook smugly claimed that they were “dramatically expanding” operations into states once thought to be GOP strongholds, and were shifting resources away from their own race to down ballot contests.

In a DNC fundraising email, James Carville’s pitch to donors was, “Here’s the deal: Just because Trump’s dunzo doesn’t mean your job is over! Oh heck no — Democrats have a chance to win the whole enchilada!”

David Plouffe, the famed architect of Obama’s victories and an adviser to the Clinton campaign, analyzed the September poll numbers and boldly told Politico, “She is sitting at 269 electoral votes guaranteed right now. I would argue she is sitting at 347 but for argument’s sake we can suspend reality for a moment.”

Despite Clinton’s odd claim in last week’s interview, she and her campaign actually viewed their polling lead as a strength, not a handicap. This played out nightly on primetime cable news panels in Groundhog Day-like repetition: A new poll would be released, followed by Democratic surrogates and left-leaning journalists explaining how it guaranteed a Trump loss.

As far as Clinton’s claim that the DNC wasn’t up to par, every bit of evidence and public statements from 2016 proves otherwise. On Labor Day, Hillary Clinton and the DNC had 291 campaign offices in battleground states, while Trump and the RNC had just 88. By October, Clinton had a staff nearly five times larger than that of Trump, with most of the 5,138 people working directly through the DNC and state Democratic parties.

At the end of the race, Clinton and the Democrats raised nearly double that of the Republicans. The $1.2 billion they spent is about 25 percent more than the cost of operating an aircraft carrier battle group for a year.

How much more could the Democrats do for her? Never mind the allegations that they tilted the scales in the primary in her favor. In the Code Conference interview, Clinton trashed the DNC data and field operations and praised that of the GOP. This is a 180-degree departure from what had been dogmatic talking points for Clinton surrogates last year.

As Robby Mook put it, “Across the country, through our efforts to build that ground game, register people to vote and turn them out… we’ve established a lead in some states that Donald Trump can’t overcome.”

And as far as technology goes, even Wired magazine exclaimed, “Clinton’s tech team is already shaping up to be the largest in campaign history, and possibly the smartest,” attracting “Silicon Valley stars” from Facebook, Google and Twitter. Not to mention, it included some of the very same people as Obama’s innovative tech shop from 2008 and 2012.

By the time early voting came into play, Democratic insiders were already opening the Champagne, confident that Clinton’s and the DNC’s ground game was unstoppable. One Wisconsin Dem proudly claimed, “It’s not even close. Both Clinton and [former Sen. Russ] Feingold have 30-point leads in early voting.” Another, in North Carolina boasted, “Democrats have a plan and are executing it. Republicans have no plan and frankly, no clue.”

Did Clinton forget about all of this work done on her behalf?

As the ballots came in on Election Day, even the right-leaning New York Post ran this headline: “Early exit poll shows Clinton beat Trump in ground game.” In the post election analysis, the opinion was nearly unanimous that Clinton’s ground game was bigger, better funded, and had more fine-tuned data than the Trump campaign. Moreover, it had nothing to do with her loss.

The Huffington Post, FiveThirtyEight, NPR, the Washington Times, all came to similar conclusions. The New York Times called it “the most sophisticated ground game modern politics had seen.”

The fact of the matter is this: up until Hillary Clinton’s outlandish claim that the DNC and her own popularity in the polls were responsible for her loss, no one who has ever studied, written about, or engaged in politics has ever made that claim about the election of 2016.

However, the nearly unanimous belief among pundits is that which Clinton refuses to believe: that she, herself, bears the most blame.

Joseph Borelli is a New York City council member, professor, former state legislator, Republican commentator, and Lindsay Fellow at the Institute for State and Local Governance at City University of New York. He has been published in the New York Daily News and appears on CNN, BBC, and Fox News. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute for State and Local Governance at City University of New York.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama campaign Democrats Donald Trump Donald Trump Election Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton Politics Republicans

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