NEW YORK — They never saw it coming.
That was the sentiment repeated over and over again by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE’s aides, surrogates and friends on Wednesday, a day after their candidate failed to shatter the last glass ceiling.
Clinton’s allies, still numb from the shock of the defeat, woke up to a steady rain in New York and began the painful post-mortem of the most disappointing presidential election result Democrats have seen in generations.
Even before Clinton took the stage at the New Yorker Hotel ballroom to ask her supporters to have an open mind toward Republican President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE, those around her were casting blame on one another, the political climate, their analytics — even the forever-plagued candidate herself.
“It was a mismanaged campaign from the start, 150 percent,” one aide said. “There was so much stuff that needed fixing. I thought we might have learned some lessons from the primary. But as you can tell from last night, probably not.”
Less than 24 hours after the mood at the Clinton election night party at the Jacob Javits Convention Center turned from celebratory to funereal, aides wondered how they could have lost so badly, why they didn’t see it coming, and how the Democrat could have lost to Trump.
One surrogate blamed the poor sampling models and analytics that the campaign was so reliant on. It hadn’t done traditional tracking polls for the last month.
Other aides and surrogates pointed to an arrogance that came from the top.
Some faulted the top brass for not properly allocating the resources they needed to win states.
Given Clinton’s primary loss to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE (I-Vt.) in Michigan, allies questioned why the Democratic nominee didn’t double down in the state much earlier.
Allies on the ground complained for weeks that they weren’t getting the resources they needed.
“The big question is ‘How much money did you spend? And what’s left in the bank?’ ” said one Clinton surrogate. “Because there were states like Michigan that kept sounding the alarm and no one was taking it seriously until the very end. They never really got everything they wanted.”
“We underestimated the Midwest,” acknowledged one longtime Clinton friend.
Clinton became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1984 to lose Wisconsin, and the first since 1988 to lose Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think we ever understood the political climate there,” the Clinton friend said. “I know some are questioning why we never went there in the final days.”
Democratic strategist Jim Manley, another surrogate, pointed to Wisconsin as proof of the broader point that there was a disregard for that part of the country — including in down-ballot races.
“Russ Feingold sent a flare up and said ‘I need help,’ ” Manley said, but it went largely ignored.
Feingold, a former Democratic senator from Wisconsin, had long been favored to win his race against Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Domestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes MORE. He ended up losing to the Republican incumbent, as Clinton’s collapse contributed to the downfall of Democratic Senate candidates.
Manley and more than a dozen other aides and allies interviewed by The Hill said the campaign was haunted by the looming controversies surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email during her time at the State Department and potential conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation. Both controversies highlighted a certain distrust of the candidate, something she wasn’t able to overcome.
“If I never hear the words email server and Clinton Foundation again, I’ll be a happy guy,” Manley said. “Both of those were the albatrosses around the neck the campaign could never escape.
“She had all the right qualifications, but mistakes were made that they could never overcome,” Manley said.
Two other controversies in October tripped up the campaign as well, allies said.
A re-examination of Clinton’s emails — found on a laptop owned by aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner — took away some of Clinton’s momentum.
And the constant leaking of her campaign chairman’s hacked emails by WikiLeaks caused a distraction even as those in Clinton World tried their best to ignore it.
But more than anything, aides and surrogates acknowledged that Clinton failed to understand and capture a movement that spread across the country and in Europe with the Brexit vote.
Trump’s strength gave that movement a leader and a megaphone, they said.
“There are people who were somewhat aggrieved, and he said don’t be aggrieved, be angry. And then it was don’t be angry, do something about it,” the longtime Clinton friend said.
In her concession speech on Friday, Clinton expressed regret for not being able to successfully cross the finish line.
“This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for, and I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country,” she said. “But I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together.”