It is clear beyond any doubt that Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College in part because of unprofessional and incompetent–at best–behavior on the part of the FBI. But there is mounting evidence that Hillary should have never been in a position to be affected by James Comey’s letter. A number of volunteers in the key battleground state of Michigan told Politico that they found themselves throwing up their hands when senior campaign officials were unwilling to adapt its strategy to events on the ground.
The Hillary campaign was built around a model that concentrated on holding Pennsylvania and winning at least one more state to slam the door on Donald Trump. That strategy assumed that Michigan and Wisconsin were locked up tight. However, according to several people who were on the ground in Michigan, campaign headquarters in Brooklyn were so convinced that Michigan was in the bag that they turned a deaf ear to signs the state was actually slipping away from them.
As we all know by now, Hillary’s campaign was heavily data-driven. Their models assumed that Hillary would win Michigan by at least five points. However, a week and a half before Election Day, the Service and Employees International Union started getting signs that things weren’t going nearly as well as Mook and his team thought they were. They went as far as to make plans to bus in volunteers from Iowa to Michigan–only to be peremptorily ordered to call the effort off. The Clinton campaign told SEIU to stay in Iowa in order to sucker Trump into campaigning there in the final weeks–even though most polls showed that Iowa had definitely flipped to Trump.
Throughout the campaign, I’d assumed that Hillary would tap into the extensive ground operation built by Barack Obama, and combine it with her massive campaign war chest to pound Trump into the ground–especially since Trump seemingly had no ground operation to speak of in several states. However, several volunteers in Michigan say that Mook and other officials failed to do a number of things that would seem to be Presidential Campaigning 101.
For instance, longtime Michigan Democratic operative Virgie Rollins, a member of the Democratic National Committee, recalled that campaign officials never responded to requests to bring Hillary surrogates to talk to the Michigan Democratic Women’s Caucus, of which she is chairwoman emerita. Rollins also couldn’t get any money to cover campaign events–no small consideration, since there was no Senate race in Michigan in 2016. In a colossal understatement, Rollins said that when a campaign doesn’t network with people “who know where the votes are,” it’s asking for trouble.
According to another person who was part of the Hillary campaign in Michigan, Mook relied on a “very surgical and corporate” campaign model that didn’t seem to allow for seemingly rudimentary things like leaving campaign literature and canvassing. This staffer recalled being told that leaving literature wasn’t necessary because–wait for it–“everyone knows who Hillary Clinton is.”
For instance, an older woman in Flint came to a campaign office and offered to help canvass for Hillary. She also asked for a lawn sign. However, she was told that these weren’t “scientifically” significant ways of getting out the vote. Several building trade workers also offered to canvass–only to be told there was no literature available. A number of obvious surrogates–Bernie Sanders, President Obama, Vice President Biden, etc.–waited for calls to come to Michigan that never came. Obama, for instance, only showed up in Michigan once during the final stretch–the Monday before Election Day.
These were classic cases of what a number of operatives said was the campaign’s unwillingness to put more people on the ground to drum up support for Hillary. When you put that next to the massive turnout operation built by Obama in 2008 and 2012, as well as Bill Clinton’s emphasis on rapid response two decades ago and repeated entreaties via Hillary campaign emails not to get complacent, this is simply incomprehensible. This sounds like a blunder on the order of John McCain not paying any attention to Indiana in 2008 despite early numbers suggesting Obama could make the normally crimson-red state competitive.
The numbers literally bear this out. Trump got 30,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did when he narrowly lost Michigan in 2004–and still carried the state by 10,700 votes. For all the talk about Jill Stein’s 50,700 voters costing Hillary victory, it doesn’t take into account the fact that turnout in a number of urban precincts was down by some 25 percent, according to a clandestine tracking system built by Michigan staffers. Additionally, Michigan native Michael Moore noted that some 90,000 Michigan voters simply skipped over the presidential race altogether.
The bottom line? The Hillary campaign was so fixated on expanding the map that it forgot about the basics. Had it done so, neither Comey nor Stein would have had any effect.
(featured image courtesy Hillary’s Facebook page)