Is Harold Ickes the Winner?

>> Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Joshua Green’s piece in the Atlantic, The Front Runners Fall, based on the internal communications of the Clinton campaign makes many people look bad. It makes Clinton look bad and it makes Mark Penn look bad. The few mentions he receives make Bill Clinton look less than stellar. The trials and tribulations of the Clinton campaign are well documented in the article. The mistakes made by the players are glaring and in many cases reinforce outside observations of the campaign. The one person who comes out looking fine is Harold Ickes.

Harold Ickes stands out in the piece as a person who made spot on predictions. The first instance of this is his memo dated March 29, 2007. This memo contains a number of observations that were very prescient in nature including

  • HRC has stronger support among downscale voters compared to up scale and among Democrats compared to Independents…
  • Currently HRC is the “incumbent” which is not best position in primary fight
  • If HRC comes to be seen as slipping, a substantial portion of current leadership/opinion maker support will likely slip
  • HRC “must” to win either IA & NH, BO & JE can lose both and still come back

Ickes also noted the possibility that Obama would out raise them and so he noted that they should retain an emergency fun of 25 million. In the end, there would be no reserve fund and the campaign would almost run aground for lack of funds. Apart from several initially correct assumptions, Ickes was one person aware of the proportional system of delegates. He noted in the first memo cited that losses in one state could be made up or eclipsed in different states because of proportionality. He continued to highlight the proportional delegate system. He wrote multiple memos, none of which registered until December 22. Then just 12 days before Iowa Ickes sent a memo discussing, in depth, the proportional distribution system.

Assuming that after Iowa and New Hampshire the presidential nominating contest narrows to two competitive candidates who remain locked in a highly contested election through 5 February, the focus of the campaign and press will shift to the delegate count. The dedication of resources (including candidate time) should be influenced, in part, by factors that will afford HRC an advantage in acquiring more delegates compared to her opponent(s).

Ickes is described as, “the adviser with primary responsibility for the campaign’s delegate and targeting strategy”. It is clear that he understood the delegate allotment system well. What appears to have hampered his efforts to target where to go after delegates is the lack of polling data in many of the states. The lack of funds left the Clinton campaign in the dark about where they were strong and where they needed to target their resources. This left Ickes with a bad idea of where the Clinton campaign stood.

Ickes does not come out looking perfect by any means. He was the point man for the Florida and Michigan situation which did not get handled particularly well. According to Green

Though Ickes had monitored the developments throughout 2007, the status of the delegates from the two states did not become vitally important until Clinton fell behind. Because she had won both states (even though it was clear that they were technically meaningless “beauty contests”), her campaign made the assumption, routinely reflected in e-mails and memos from top strategists, that it would be able to formalize her claim to the delegates.

This means it was too late for him to take an active role brokering a deal that benefitted Clinton. The campaign was unable to imagine that Florida would not be counted as a state in deciding the parties nomination. That talking point was a reflection of their belief included in a memo of August 24 2007.

Before the release of the memos and accompanying article people were wondering who benefits from this. The answer is, I think, Harold Ickes, who is vindicated in his argument that Penn was responsible. He comes out not looking like someone inept and instead as someone who lacked the resources to do his job as well as he could.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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