(CNN) – In an interview out Thursday, Hillary Clinton’s former senior strategist Mark Penn blames the New York senator's loss to Barack Obama not on underestimating her opponent, but on disagreements within the campaign on how to go after him and on squandering their campaign warchest far too early.
“I wanted to question the basic underpinning of his campaign,” Penn told GQ Magazine’s Lisa DePaulo. “One – that he didn’t have the usual experience of somebody running for president, and two – that the positions he took on Iraq - you know, that were revered by the press - didn’t really hold up when you look through his record in the Senate.”
Penn said former President Bill Clinton agreed with him and went after Obama on Iraq which resulted in his infamous “fairy tale” comments but that the rest of the campaign wanted to hold back because they felt Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her Senate vote to authorize the Iraq war made her vulnerable.
“The reason that I would have gone after him early was precisely because I didn’t underestimate the power of a fresh new candidate who also had appeal to the African-American vote and the latte voters,” says Penn. “How do you stop something like that, right? You don’t stop something like that by being “warmer” [snorts]—by, you know, giving an interview on a personality show.”
Penn argues that what is being overlooked is how the $100 million the campaign amassed in 2007 had somehow disappeared after the first contest in Iowa - money crucial to building organizations in future states.
“It was always anticipated that if things didn’t go well in Iowa - and Iowa was the toughest place - that there would be $25 million left in the kitty in order to go into the next round of states. Instead, the cupboard was bare,” says Penn.
Penn also agreed with criticisms that the media was sexist and unfairly pushed her to end her campaign.
“The press always falls in love with the new cool intellectual candidate. You know, he is their kind of candidate,” says Penn. “The microscope that they put her under, that they did not put her opponent and opponents under, was just incredible.”
Clinton suspended her campaign last Saturday with tens of millions of dollars in debt, including – the New York Times reports – $5 million owed to Penn.