|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Mr. Panetta, who served as chief of staff in the White House from July 1994 to January 1997, and who has contributed $2000 to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, complained that Mr. Penn “is a political pollster from the past.”
”I never considered him someone who would run a national campaign for the presidency,” he said.
He asserted that Mr. Penn “comes from an old school, like Karl Rove—it’s all about dividing people into smaller groups rather than taking the broader approach that was needed.”
Referring to Barack Obama, he said, “I think he really captured early on this deep feeling in the country about needing change in Washington. And people have underestimated how deep that sense was, just how much people felt the need for change.”
Mr. Panetta added that “for the money they brought in” the Clinton campaign “should have done a much better job.”
On the now-deposed campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, Mr. Panetta said, “Solis was someone who was obviously close to the [former] First Lady and had good relations with her, but again she didn’t have the experience that you need.”
Aside from his criticisms of specific people at the top of Mrs. Clinton’s team, he also asserted that the campaign in general had neither created an efficient ground operation nor shown tactical wisdom in its deployment of available resources.
“It seems to me like they rolled the dice on Super Tuesday, thinking that would end it,” he said. “And when it didn’t end it, they didn’t have a plan. And when it came to the caucus states, they did have a plan—which was to ignore them. I think those were serious mistakes.”
Asked about Mrs. Clinton’s closing statement at the Feb. 21 CNN debate in Austin, Texas, where she spoke of being “absolutely honored” to be sharing the stage with Mr. Obama and expressed concern for the nation’s future, Mr. Panetta said, “I think that was her strongest moment, and I would have recommended taking that kind of approach a long time ago. I think that idea of talking about the country and showing some emotion is much more effective.”
By contrast, Mr. Panetta was unimpressed by the former First Lady’s sharpest attack on Mr. Obama, in which she accused him of plagiarism and, in a mocking reference to his campaign slogan, asserted, “That’s change you can Xerox.”
“There should be much less of those kinds of moments,” he said.
Even if she's defeated soundly in Ohio and Texas, she's counting on yet another kind of firewall, and therein lays a potential danger that could jeopardize the Democrats' chances at taking back the White House and increasing its majorities in Congress.
The way events continue to evolve, to get the delegates either candidate needs for the nomination, Clinton or Obama must receive the votes of a large number of the party's superdelegates -- 795 men and women who will be at the August convention in Denver not because they were chosen via the primary or caucus system, but because they hold office in government or the Democratic Party.
Clinton strategists see the superdelegates as a final firewall, believing many of the superdelegates -- even some committed to Obama -- are susceptible to persuasion. After all, many of them owe their positions to the largesse of the Bill Clinton presidency. Pressure would be brought to bear.
But cash talks, too. According to a new report from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, "While it would be unseemly for the candidates to hand out thousands of dollars to primary voters, or to the delegates pledged to represent the will of those voters, elected officials who are superdelegates have received at least $904,200 from Obama and Clinton in the form of campaign contributions over the last three years...
"Obama, who narrowly leads in the count of pledged, 'non-super' delegates, has doled out more than $698,200 to superdelegates from his political action committee or campaign committee since 2005... [Hillary Clinton's] PAC, and campaign committee appear to have distributed $205,500 to superdelegates...
"In cases where superdelegates had received contributions from both Clinton and Obama, all seven elected officials who received more money from Clinton have committed to her. Thirty-four of the 43 superdelegates who received more money from Obama, or 79 percent, are backing him."
Yet many believe that back rooms filled with smoke and dollar-laden powerbrokers won't be a decisive factor. "If you're going to use your best judgment," Congressman and Superdelegate Charles Rangel told the New York Daily News, "you've got to take into consideration what your constituents are saying," and endorse whoever has the most primary and caucus delegates.
Democratic primary voters agree. According to Tuesday's New York Times/CBS News poll, more than half said superdelegates should vote for whoever receives the most votes in the caucuses and primaries.
But superdelegates aren't the only targets. Senator Clinton also is trying to get the party to recognize delegates she won in Florida and Michigan -- even though both states' delegations have been disqualified because their primaries were held early, in violation of party rules. The Democratic National Committee's credentials committee, which will make a ruling, is evenly divided between Clinton and Obama supporters, but as the Washington Times recently reported, "At first blush... [it] looks like it could be in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's hip pocket. Its three chairmen served in Bill Clinton's administration."
What's more, although the Clinton campaign denies it, according to Politico.com columnist Roger Simon, writing on February 19, "Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination...
"This time, one candidate may enter the convention leading by just a few pledged delegates, and those delegates may find themselves being promised the sun, moon and stars to switch sides."