June 12th, 2008
12:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Clinton advisor blames strategy disagreements, money for loss

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/12/art.mark.jpg caption="Mark Penn discusses the Clinton campaign's money problems."]
(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.

WATCH Bill Clinton's 'fairy tale' comments

“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.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (242 Responses)
  1. Doug

    Honest question: is this guy even a Democrat? I know the Clintons have shown the willingness to hire non-Democrats in the past (see Gergen and Dick Morris). Penn obviously doesn't care about the Democrats' chance of winning in November. He's more than willing to rehash Obama's weaknesses just to TRY and make it seem like Hillary's loss wasn't his fault. He's continuing to throw Obama (and others) under the bus to save his political career.

    Penn is finished, though. Nobody will ever hire him after the disasterous way Hillary's campaign was run, regardless of how he tries to spin it. He's a political consultant. Are people really going to believe anything he says?

    June 12, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. Patricktm

    Even Penn is admitting that her campaign blew it - not its time for all of those whiny sniveling malcontents to get a life and stop this "we weren't treated fair" and "it was stolen form us" bull pucky they continue to spout rather than accept the fact they backed a loser and lost.

    June 12, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. Franky

    "The Womens Fair Movement for McCain"


    Women: They treated Hillary wrong! The news media is sexist!

    Women 2: We will be heard!

    Women 3: We will vote for McCain!

    Women 4: It is wrong and unfair!

    Women 5: Please Senator McCain, tell us you LOVE us???

    Senator MCCain: Only if you promise me not to get paid?


    June 12, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. GR

    You Obama supporters are not speaking for me. By the way, I haven't been polled yet.

    June 12, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. What if?

    TO............Raymond DukeThe democrat leadership , the Obama campaign and the media would have been taking to task and not given a free ride to do as they pleased.

    I thought Mark Penn was the only one at this late date playing the blame game. It's obvious that you are a Clinton supporter and have been introduced to the blame game of politics.....blame everyone else, but not ME!. What shouldn't have been stated is that Clinton, her camp (including Mark Penn( should have WORKED HARDER for their salaries to WIN. JUST as Obama, his camp did, WINNER........ Wouldn't you know........

    GAS IS TO HIGH, there's nothing call a FREE RIDE............Obama 08

    June 12, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. tidho

    so if I have this straight, your point is that its not your fault...thanks Mark, that was value added.

    June 12, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  7. Louis

    The fact is that Hillary and her "combo" mismanaged her campaign she began 8 years ago. Mark Penn is a good example of a lack of judgment in selecting subrogates. Then, she didn't administrate wisely the campaign funds by thinking she would secure the nomination by February. Finally, she couldn't control her husband who was talking stupidities everywhere without measuring its consequences. As a Hillary supporter, I have to accept now that under US current circumstances, she is not the right person to be a president neither Vice president.

    June 12, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. LaShanda

    Mark Penn ruined Hillary's campaign by telling her that she should ignore the caucus states. This man should NEVER work in politics. It's time to move on and focus on winning the White House.


    June 12, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. Loretta from California

    Please no more of the blame game. We need to stay focused on the task ahead, which is to rid ourselves of the current Regime and to repair the damage that has been done to our Country.

    June 12, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  10. Don

    did anyone read the article on msnbc.com from Howard Fineman and how he portrays Barack's misjudgement in picking Jim Johnson as his vp vetter knowing that he recd money from lobbyists. Howard Fineman is usually very supportive of Barack and very critical of Clinton together with Olberman on National Barack Channel(NBC). Now if he can write a sound article criticizing bad calls made by Barack and he supports him why can't Barack supporters criticize their messiah. Some people can't take the heat. CNN post my comment.

    June 12, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. An Independent Hillary

    Coulda woulda shoulda 🙁

    June 12, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. Bonnie

    Hillary did not lose the election to Obama. It was taken from her by the "delegates" who gave the nomination to Obama. I say get rid of all delegates, super delegates and the electoral college and let the peoples vote "really" count. After this is our government, not the delegates.

    June 12, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. darren

    Obame voted to fund the troops while they are in danger, isnt that the right thing to do?

    To actually vote for the war is something different, to provide troops with gear and other necessities while they are there is not hypocritical it is what you have to do...So i don't get his argument

    what he needs to get is that the people voted, Rev Wright was played all day almost every day by CNN and everyone else. That didn't help Obama.

    Plus Bill was the media's darling when he ran, so don't be mad if people like, love whatever Obama. It's not his fault, he was dealt worse blows by the media in my opinion....the stuff Hillary dealt with she brought on herself. Always playing the victim, crying during debates...r u serious...

    You people always try to find a scapegoat, she lost fair and square, end of story, u ran a stupid campaign!!! its YOUR FAULT!!!!

    June 12, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. I blame

    I blame global warming and big oil for her loss... I mean, most of you clowns blame them for everything else right?

    June 12, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. virginia

    It's a bit too late for Mr. Penn to be crying about what he feels were the injustices of the campaign. If I remember correctly his title was "Senior Strategist" and unless I'm wrong, along with the majority of others who have already sounded off on this, that means that he was one of those at the top of the brain trust. Don't make anymore excuses for what happened, and just face the reality that YOU LOST THE CAMPAIGN. Move on, and get a life.

    June 12, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. Obama is Michael Dukakis revisited

    Barack Obama is supported by blacks, the young, and wealthy liberals. Not a overwhelming demographic for a general election. It is the same demographic of McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry.
    The Starbucks crowd supports Obama.
    The gas station coffee crowd supported Clinton and supports McCain.

    Obama is out of touch with middle America. He is an elitist. He is like Kerry in that he does not campaign in states where he does not think he will do good. If you never ask for a vote, guess what, you may not get the vote. And if you do not get the vote do not blame it on racism. Blame it on the candidate!

    June 12, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Kate, Atlanta

    Hey fred – I'm where Obama's money came from, and a million or so other individuals just like me. There, is that public enough for you? Oh, and I bought both his books too, so I guess I helped buy his house too – just so the record is clear.

    June 12, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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