The PJ Tatler

Some Longtime Clinton Hands in New Hampshire Think the State Is a Lost Cause

We’re used to the drama that constantly swirls around the Clintons. They can’t open the door to walk outside without controversy.

But when, what Politico describes as “veterans of the family’s old campaigns and people close to Clinton’s fundraising,” criticize the national office for poor strategy and suggest giving up on winning an early primary state, drama is superseded by the panic of a campaign in complete disarray.

Despite confidence emanating from the campaign’s paid leadership team that Clinton is well positioned with more than four months to go before the primary, this circle of informal advisers is whispering about more aggressively looking beyond New Hampshire after a summer that saw her polling advantage evaporate. These confidantes are not only granting the possibility that Sanders could win here: they see it as a near-certainty, and in some cases wonder about the usefulness of flooding the state with precious resources.

Instead, they’re arguing that Clinton’s campaign would be just fine focusing on the states that follow in early 2016.

“I look at New Hampshire and I say, ‘um, yeah, whatever.’ I like the people in Iowa. I like the people in New Hampshire. But you know what? They are distinctly different than most places in the country are. They are very white, they are very parochial. And they are not emblematic of the country,” explained one Washington-based Clinton friend who remains in touch with the candidate, adding that she would be comfortable relying on the campaign’s organization in the 48 other states.

“It’s about preserving the antique nomination process. I don’t know if I care so much. I’d like to win. But I don’t think it’s crucial, nor do I think it’s necessary, to win either of those two states.”

The widening rift between Clinton’s team and the pocket of informal but influential advisers and old friends is quiet, but real. And it’s exactly this kind of off-strategy, off-message suggestion that drives the official Brooklyn-based campaign mad.

That’s because Clinton’s political team readily acknowledges her weakness in New Hampshire — she was down 14 points to Sanders by the end of September in the Huffington Post Pollster average. And the team is also well aware of the circumstances that the doubters see as evidence of a lost cause — Sanders’ next-door neighbor status, voters’ perceived inability to break into Clinton’s Secret-Service mandated bubble, and her own role as the establishment’s front-runner.

But to Clinton staffers in both Brooklyn and Manchester, the idea of shifting away from New Hampshire — the state that resuscitated Clinton’s 2008 campaign and her husband’s 1992 effort — is beyond ridiculous, and potentially campaign-killing. The state couldn’t be further from hopeless, they say.

Someone is panicking and it isn’t the national headquarters of the Clinton campaign. The wild card here is the Biden factor and how much support he will pull from Clinton and Sanders.

Conventional wisdom says Hillary would lose more support if Biden took the plunge because Sanders voters are true believers and few would bolt to Biden if he entered the race. But an unknown percentage of Sanders voters are anti-Hillary and would never vote for her for president.  And, there are other Sanders supporters who are currently thinking more with their heart than their head. A realization that Sanders could never win the general election might convince other supporters of the Vermont senator to bolt to Biden or Clinton.

Also, we’re still 4 months out from the primary in a state that has rallied to both Clintons to save their campaigns — first in 1992 with Bill and then in 2008 with Hillary. The Clintons have deep ties to very influential people in the state. Anyone who suggests that Hillary Clinton is as good as done for in the state isn’t thinking rationally.

Those suggesting surrender in New Hampshire are apparently not paid staffers, and their influence may be limited. But they’ve been through the wars with the Clintons, and Hillary would do well to avail herself of their counsel. Not giving up, but radically altering her strategy to try and salvage something from what is shaping up to be a disaster.