Clinton looks to tighten inner circle

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Hillary Clinton faces a stiff challenge in constructing a lean and mean campaign team that avoids the drama and leaks that hurt her 2008 effort.

Clinton is working with an enormous Rolodex that includes aides and advisers from her days as senator and secretary of State, as well as from her husband’s time as president.

Many of those people want very badly to be a part of another Clinton campaign — and possibly another administration.

{mosads}Democratic strategists and political observers say it will be particularly difficult for Clinton to winnow it down because of the growing network surrounding her and the former president.

“The problem is their circle is only getting bigger in light of the people she’s brought on, going all the way back to Arkansas,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist.

Some are advising Clinton in the lead-up to a campaign announcement to mimic President Obama, who, in 2008, relied on a small set of advisers including David Plouffe, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs.

The small cadre of advisers resulted in a disciplined operation from top to bottom on strategy, messaging and even leaks to the press.

“It’s really why we won, plain and simple,” explained a senior campaign staffer on the 2008 Obama team.

Early plans indicate that Clinton will rely on former Obama and Bill Clinton adviser John Podesta as her campaign chairman, with longtime aides Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Philippe Reines and Jake Sullivan serving as advisers.

Robby Mook would serve as a campaign manager tasked with handling day-to-day operations.

Other senior advisers are likely to include Clinton favorites Minyon Moore, “whose stock is continuously rising,” one source says, as well as Tom Nides, who served as deputy secretary of State under Clinton; and Dennis Cheng, the top contender to handle Clinton’s campaign finances as The Hill reported last week.

The plan has already caused some consternation among longtime aides looking to work for the would-be Democratic front-runner, aides who worry having so many people in leadership roles could lead to some of the same problems that befell their candidate in 2008.

“At the end of the day, the buck falls on one person, whether it’s the candidate or the campaign manager,” said one aide who, having worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign, remains close to those in Hillaryland. “It’s gotta be clear who’s in charge of this campaign and what the clear lines of authority are.

“Having multiple people at the helm above Robby [Mook] sounds like a repeat of mistakes made in the past.”

Also a potential problem: working together with the Bill Clinton side of the operation, which includes a whole other roster of people.

Many Clinton Foundation staffers also would like a role in a campaign. And then there is the role of Chelsea Clinton and her small staff.

Clinton allies are working hard to remedy any possible problems ahead of a campaign announcement, which could come as soon as April.

Allies say Clinton learned from the mistakes of her 2008 campaign when she went to the State Department, where they say she relied on a small coterie of advisers.

They say those lessons are reflected in the early planning behind the 2016 campaign team.

“It’s exactly what’s needed and where we went wrong last time,” said one Clinton ally who worked on the 2008 campaign. “There wasn’t a day that went by where someone was publicly trashing someone else or that basically everyone knew everyone’s business from the top down. We needed a very strong core group of people. And I think Secretary Clinton saw the light and achieved just that at State.”

Manley also argued that it’s possible a slimmed-down campaign could backfire.

“If you make the decision loop too small, it just becomes an echo chamber where everyone is repeating the same ideas,” Manley said. “You don’t have a very big information loop. But I think given some of the difficulties she had the last time around, there is a need to downsize the operation a bit.”

One longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton said that she would continue to seek out advice and ideas from outside of her campaign team.

So, the adviser surmised that while key decision-making would be closely held among a small group, the “idea generation” could come from a wider group of advisers, and people would come and go as needed. The adviser also made the point that those in Clinton’s inner circle have their sets of contacts, ensuring that there is another round of views and vetting of plans and strategy.

“I know it seems like an insurmountable challenge,” a second Clinton ally said. “But we’ve had a couple of years to work out the glitches.”

Tags Bill Clinton Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton presidential campaign Hillary Rodham Clinton Politics of the United States
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