How 2014 may shape Hillaryland

How 2014 may shape Hillaryland
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If Democrats lose the Senate, the reverberations could be felt in a Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMore than half of eligible Latinos voted in 2020, setting record Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows The Memo: GOP attacks bounce off Biden MORE presidential campaign. 

Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), has long been seen as a favorite to manage Clinton’s second bid for the presidency. But he’s now in charge of keeping the Senate in Democratic hands, and a big loss could potentially boost other up-and-coming political operatives who want to lead the Hillary 2016 army. 


Robby Mook, who managed Terry McAuliffe’s (Va.) gubernatorial campaign, and EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock, are among the other names consistently mentioned as possible leading candidates for the role.  

Clinton allies insist Cecil won’t be eliminated from consideration if Democrats lose the Senate — no matter how devastating the loss. They point to Cecil’s overall tenure at the DSCC as proof of his talent. 

In addition, they note that the president’s party typically loses seats in the midterm elections of a second term — and that Cecil faces a particularly difficult atmosphere in this campaign year. The party is defending 23 seats this year compared to 10 for the GOP, and many of the Democratic incumbents are in red states.

“Whatever happens, nobody is going to blame the staff at the DSCC,” said Steve Elmendorf, the Democratic strategist who served as deputy campaign manager on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. “We are fighting in a bunch of very hard states.”

At the same time, perceptions in politics matter and some allies say it’s hard to fathom Hillary Clinton selecting someone who led the DSCC during what could be a grim cycle for Democrats.

“Whether we love him or hate him, he will wear the victory or the loss,” said one Clinton ally, who worked on the 2008 campaign. “There’s no getting around that.”

During the 2012 cycle, Cecil was credited with expanding the Democratic majority in the upper chamber, even as political observers expected Republicans to gain seats. And in 2010, he helped lead Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) underdog campaign to victory, even though Bennet had never run for elected office.

A fixture at expensive lunches and dinners for candidates across the country, Cecil is also known to be accessible to top donors, some fundraising insiders say.

Perhaps more importantly, Cecil has a close working relationship with the Clintons, who treasure two things in aides: Talent and loyalty.

And Cecil has both, Clintonites say.

“Key for her is a team that is tight and close,” one longtime Clinton insider said. “So personality counts for something along with ability.”

Former President Clinton has been known to call Cecil to check in on various races during the election cycle, and the two would strategize about which races most needed Clinton’s help. And Cecil has seen Hillary Clinton in recent weeks as well, attending a fundraiser at her home in September and crossing paths with her on Monday night during an event for Senate candidates hosted by Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. 

Hillaryland sources say Clinton still hasn’t made a decision about whether or not she will make another go at the White House and therefore is months away from selecting any potential campaign manager.

But they say she’s learned a thing or two about the role of a campaign manager from her last presidential bid.

In the middle of the hard-fought Democratic primary in 2008, Clinton had to fire her campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle after aides complained of an arrogance at the top. She replaced Solis Doyle with Maggie Williams, a longtime trusted political adviser, who was credited with helping to steer the campaign ship back in the right direction.

The Clintons, together with longtime aides including Williams, Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin and Philippe Reines, undoubtedly will give their full attention to selecting a campaign manager — and to the optics behind it.

Even if Democrats lose control of the Senate, Clinton loyalists seemed confident that it wouldn’t hurt Cecil’s standing. Much of it, several allies explained, is out of his control. And the Clintons, who have been criss-crossing the country for Democrats in tight races, now have firsthand experience and the context needed to know what this particular cycle is about, they say.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone can dispute that the DSCC, led by Guy, has done the best that they can, given the resources they have, especially with Obama’s low approval ratings,” one Clinton ally said. “There’s only so much you can do.”

Another Clinton insider who labeled Cecil as “highly regarded” boiled it down this way: “I personally don’t think the midterm results would impact decisions — it seems larger forces are at work, rendering results beyond the capacity of any individual. … And then there’s the fact that sometimes you learn more by losing than winning.” 

Of course, if the midterms go better than expected for Democrats on Nov. 4, Cecil could see his stock rise.

“If we hold the Senate, he’s a genius,” one Clinton ally said. “He’ll be David Plouffe of the next cycle.”