December 11th, 2008
01:09 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama aide: How Clinton may have won

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Plouffe managed Obama's campaign."]

(CNN) - Would Hillary Clinton have won the prolonged Democratic primary race if David Plouffe was managing her campaign?

Plouffe served as Obama’s campaign manager and is often referred to as the "unsung hero" of the president-elect's White House bid. He was largely responsible for designing the strategy that ultimately dashed Clinton's own ambitions for the Oval office.

Now, the camera-shy Plouffe is revealing what surprised him the most about Clinton’s campaign: the New York senator's strategists willingness to concede a string of caucus states to the Obama camp. In the process Obama won a vast sum of delagates and created a lead in the delegate count that ultimately proved fatal to Clinton's chances.

"We were surprised because at some point it became likely that it was going to be a battle that went on for some time, and delegates that are gained through a caucus are no different than through a primary—so every contest mattered," Plouffe told Portfolio Magazine.

“They ceded the field to us for a long period of time," Plouffe also said. "I think if they had contested those caucus states, we might've won those caucus states but we wouldn't have won them 55-35 [percent]."

Given that the Democratic party appropriates it's delegates proportionately, Ploffe said the wide margins of victory in the caucus states ultimately gave the Obama campaign a nearly insurmountable lead by mid-March.

"I guarantee if they had contested them vigorously, our margins would've been shrunk," he said. "And that's the tale of the campaign. Otherwise we didn't rack up the huge landslide. We did in some of the primary states for sure, Virginia was a big win, Wisconsin was a big win, but those caucuses provided us a huge delegate lead."

soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Alexa- Chicago, IL

    I would still like for her to have won.

    December 11, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. 30-m-PA-Democrat-voted McCain

    Also, don't forget about all the cheating in the caucuses by the Obama campaign. Oh and perhaps if FL and MI weren't punished and the media weren't totally in the tank for Obama then Hillary would have won. I will never vote in the primaries again after the extreme media bias, party manipulation and party corruption that I witnessed.

    December 11, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  3. pam Eugene OR

    Hillary acted like the Presidency was owed to her and she believed there was no way for her to lose.
    She was over confident and got her socks blown off when Obama won all the caucus states. She had no plan to move forward after Florida because she believed the outcome was a given. Her sense of entitlement cost her the election. Obamas' campaign was nothing short of brilliant while Hillary's was a disaster. She will be paying for her mistakes for a long time to come. I think she is still about 8 million in debt!
    She ran out of ideas, out of time and out of money. She disgraced herself and deserved to lose.

    December 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Uncle S.A.M.-Virginia

    And this is why Obama is President and Clinton is S.O.S. strategic thinking by the Obama campaign is what made him victorious. Not to mention he was just the way cooler candidate.

    December 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  5. Voted for change in Texas

    Marc in Virginia December 11th, 2008 2:10 pm ET

    Exactly. Which is why we need to do away with the caucuses. They're misrepresentative of the general electorate (only 10% or so) and let the Obama party thugs bully those that came out to vote. Between that, the DNC giving Obama delegates in Michigan, and the general media bias, Hillary had no realistic chance.

    Hillary had no chance from the time she lost 11 contests in a row. Michigan and Florida were not going to save her no matter what!!!

    December 11, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. Duane in Philly

    Marc in Virgina wrote:
    Exactly. Which is why we need to do away with the caucuses. They're misrepresentative of the general electorate (only 10% or so) and let the Obama party thugs bully those that came out to vote. Between that, the DNC giving Obama delegates in Michigan, and the general media bias, Hillary had no realistic chance

    And, Hillary was doomed by the proportionate system of the democratic party. With African Americans–a large democratic voting block–voting in record numbers (and 90% voting against her), even in the states won by Hillary, she'd pick up only minimal delegates over Obama.

    December 11, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  7. For real?!

    How can anyone say that Hillary had no chance to win when she was the favorite to win right until O'Bama started kicking her butt and even then there was an expectation that he could not hold out and pull off the upset. The media didn't steal the candidacy from Hillary.......she gave it up when she didn't run a good campaign!!! Get over it already!!

    December 11, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  8. Peter (CA)

    Seriously No Obama and Patty-

    Get over it. I supported Hillary also. It was not meant to be. Now we need to make sure the country moves forward.

    December 11, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. Gue


    December 11, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. Adam Habib Dallas, TX

    Quite an smart Guy. I am impressed by his discipline.

    December 11, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  11. Nick - Arlington, VA

    No Hillary = No Obama December 11th, 2008 2:13 pm ET
    I find it amazing that the media does not report on their own out-of-whack biased reporting in Obama's favor while alllowing sexist slurs against Hillary and doing everything they could to hijack her nomination. So while all these Obama people are patting themselves on the back, it was the media that basically elected Obama.
    Really? seriously really? are you complaining about the primaries? Because Obama won and is 39 days away from being sworn in. Delusions aren't healthy

    December 11, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Greg Hodges

    Political historians will look long and hard at how David Plouffe was responsible for devising a strategy that took a young,barely known Sen. Obama and beat both Hilary Clinton and the entire G.O.P. attack machine in 2008. He rewrote the book on how to win the White House!!

    December 11, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Mari

    Clinton would NOT have won, no matter what. TOO MANY SKELETONS IN THE CLINTON CLOSET.

    December 11, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Texas Latina

    I was a victim of the Texas primaries caucus system, in a precinct that was controlled (they thought) by Hillary thugs. Obama's team was wonderful. They held training sessions for voters, to show us how a caucus was conducted, and what important things needed to happen.

    I'd never attended a caucus in my life, and the Democratic establishment was counting on the same old no-shows – except for the good ol' boys. They tried to railroad the caucus proceeding without caucus elections, and appointed delegates by drawing post-its from a hat held by one of them. The establishment delegates were somehow the first to have their names drawn as delegates. All Hillary's people. My (Obama) name was next to last.
    We Obama people were in the minority anyway, but without our presence and ultimate action, the (illegal, I think) proceedings would never have come to light. These proceeding were reported and contested.
    We need to do away with the caucus system. It is ultimately unfair and vulnerable to corruption.

    December 11, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  15. Bdiddy from Chicago

    Honestly Like so many of us...who thought an African American Man named Barack Obama could win any election in Iowa much less an election for President of the United States? Who really thought it could happen? Before Iowa the rest of the country didn't even know who he was... It happened for himm in Iowa and the rest was History.

    Hillary and righfully so before Iowa didn't believe that Barack was going to be a player until the larger states with more African Americans in the electorate came up. And then she figured I'll be out in front by so many delegates it will be over by Super Tuesday. She never planned to go past Super Tuesday, and I can't say I would blame her....... who knew???

    Well except maybe Barack.... excuse me President Elect Barack Obama.

    December 11, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. Cathy in Vermont

    Marc in VA: My daughter-in-law was bullied big time in the Iowa caucus-by the Clinton thugs. They tried to shame her for not voting for a woman. She was approached by a gaggle of them and she really felt intimidated.

    December 11, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  17. elsie

    "MIGHT have won," not "MAY have won." There's a world of difference.

    "Might" means that perhaps if Plouffe had been in her camp, the nomination could have been hers.

    "May" would mean: it may still be possible that a mistake will be discovered and we will find that she really did win after all.

    December 11, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  18. Perusing-Through


    When running a presidential campaign, don't take for granted the "caucus" states. Hillary's campaign strategist blew it.

    After February's Super-Tuesday Primaries, Obama went on an 11-state winning spree, which included wins in 5 caucus states/provinces. They were Nebraska, Virgin Islands, Washington, Maine, and Hawaii.

    December 11, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  19. Justin Time

    OMG, give it a rest you guys! The election is over, won fair and square by an honest politician. That's the moral of the story. End of story!

    Greetings from Canada! Will you Americans please now stop gazing at your navel – and hers – and get on with fixing this mess?! You got 8 years of hell to clean up, don't ya know!

    December 12, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  20. Arjy, MN

    I'm a Obama supporter. He won because he spoke in a needing tone while Clinton spoke in a wanting rhetoric.

    December 12, 2008 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  21. kspool

    Yes she didn't contest caucus states but if she did she probably would have won. Why? Look at her campaigning and strategy from march forward she kept pushing and won many primaries even in the face of imminent defeat.

    December 12, 2008 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  22. BM

    Too late to cry over spilled milk. Hillary would have never won the African American votes after what her husband stated after the S.C primary.

    December 12, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. BM

    David Plouffe was brilliant also. He must get his just due.

    December 12, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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