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. Patrick

    It wouldn't have mattered; McCain would have beat Hilary.

    December 11, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. Ed Stack

    Hillary Clinton should have won.......she simply played the wrong cards at the wrong that she is in the Obama cabinet.....she is safely tucked away for next run for Presidency.....Abraham Lincoln once said......"the best way to defeat your enemies is to make them your friends".......that is exactly what Obama is doing right now..........very smart man.......

    December 11, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. ApplePie

    One time I was listening to a Christian Radio and it was a true story, there was a Muslim and his family started dying and he didnt know who God was. He looked and looked and he found out about Jesus and that he could have a personal relationship with Jesus and that Heaven will be his. He found God.

    December 11, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Vic

    Nope – Clinton had no chance of winning no matter what this man says.
    Clinton would not have gotten the Independent votes, nor any crossover republican votes, and certaintly none of the black votes.
    She would have had a huge loss, and McShame and that nitwit Palin would have been elected.

    December 11, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. The Spellchecker

    Could we get "its" right please?

    December 11, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. justobserve

    What if...? The real reason was the Clintons were not as political savvy as they were credited for. A general going out to win a war would have to look at every possible scenario. "Never underestimate your opponents"! Maybe they were arrogant and look down Obama, a black person. Even after Obama won the primary, the Clintons didn't actively campaigned for him until very late when Obama had a very real chance to win by his own effort which of course included his extraordinary outstanding team. Just to win votes with his color as a lead on his shoulder was enough to sink most people. God bless his talented team and American voters who saw in Obama the rare quality of a different kind of President.

    December 11, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. Adrian

    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.

    Learn the difference between it's and its.


    December 11, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. Nick

    Very true. It was a silly decision on her part. Why would you concede any race before it's even run? And that's what she did, essentially said caucuses didn't matter, and babbled something how her husband didn't do well in caucuses, as if the political landscape didn't change since the 90s.

    December 11, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. karen-phoenix

    Obama's camphaign was a "perfect storm" for the good of the American people!!! Best people came together with a very wise, educated and intellegent Obama to help lead us out of this mess–both finnacially and world image wise. Thank you GOD!!!

    December 11, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |

    smart guy

    December 11, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. Mike in Texas

    Hillary would have won had the media posed questions to Obama that traditional reporters would have done from the start. This lack of any investigative instinct on the part of the media, indeed their obvious partisanship in the primaries and subsequent general election, has now put the media in the position of acting to defend an elected politician from anything that may have a negative effect (as can now be seen in the apparent willingness to come to Obama's defense in the current IL governor scandal without even questioning Obama).

    Hillary would have won the democratic primary handily had the media not been so biased from the beginning. The media was the ultimate loser in the 2008 campaigns, having severely tarnished its reputation as a viable source of a non-partisan check on governmental power.

    December 11, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. Kevin

    Does anyone edit the spelling and grammar in these PoliticalTicker articles anymore??

    December 11, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. an american first

    David Plouffe, I totally admire. The only thing I will say to confront this theory is that there was something else going on that made Obama takeover the democratic primary race. And that was the enthusiasm gap. People volunteered and contributed and voted in far record numbers than before and than any other candidate in the race as a result of Obama's candidacy and his campaign.

    David Plouffe was a huge part of this successful Obama campaign. I don't know what his role is going to be in the new administration, but Pres. Elect better make sure that he is on his team. I am sure he will be.

    December 11, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. President McCain

    I could have won too.

    December 11, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. TexasAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    After seeing how horribly run those primary night caucuses were here in Texas, I think they should be abolished and just go with the popular vote. The primary plus the caucus in effect gives some people the equivalent of TWO votes while people who were only able to vote a primary ballot only got ONE vote. So if you had to vote absentee or couldn't come to the caucus in person for health or work reasons, then you didn't have the same vote strength as others who could do both. Some of the precinct caucuses (including ours) were horrible!! We had a bunch of half drunk college kids who came just long enough to sign up on one candidates roster and then left- BUT that still meant our precinct delegates had to be divided up based on the number of people who signed up on each candidate's roster sheet. The the senatorial district caucuses– OMG. We got there at 8 am and at 5 pm they still had not even credentialed everyone. Nobody followed the rules (the chairman didn't know half the rules) so we had precincts voting for state delegates based on two different interpretations of the rules. People just kind of did what they wanted to do, and nobody seemed to be in control.
    I say Texas should deep-six the caucus system and just go with the primary popular vote. Not only would it be more fair to the voters, it would save the party a boatload of money.

    December 11, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. Monica

    Either way, Hillary's supporters were not hard core enough to go stand in line for hours in the cold to caucus.

    December 11, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. Mark

    So this is the man personally responsible for the destruction of this great country?


    December 11, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. CHANGE IT!!!

    I think it's absurb that we even continue to have a caucus. It should be done away with just like Iowa having the first caucus and NH having the first primary in the nation.

    That would be CHANGE I CAN BELIEVE IN!!

    December 11, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  19. Connie

    There's no question who among the strategists of these campaigns stood head and shoulders above the others. Barack's campaign organization was absolutely stellar.

    December 11, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. susie

    Obama won because the MSM refused to vet him.

    December 11, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. First Choice

    Obama is not the first choice, after all. Hillary Clinton would have been a better... President-Elect. It is only a matter of campaigning, and fund raising. Money can buy anthing, even the White House, for $668 million.

    December 11, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    If Clinton would have taken off those awful pants suits and put on a skirt I would have given her my support. Palin looked great in a dress with high heels, Michele Obama looks great in a dress, what was wrong with Hilliary?

    December 11, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  23. randy

    well i think it is true.

    December 11, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Jimi

    I believe delegates is the correct spelling.

    December 11, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. Alex in MA

    The numerous typos in this article makes it hard to read. Other than that who cares!

    December 11, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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