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. Giulia F.

    Correction – Obama never had a huge lead. He barely won. I think he would not have won if it wasn't for the caucuses. That was indeed a significant mistake that her campaign made.

    December 11, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Bob

    we have to undo 400 years of racism and discrimination. goooood luck

    December 11, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Kelly

    This goes to show you that her campaign team thought this election belonged to Hillary and all they had to do was make sure her name was on the ballot.

    December 11, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. Dan

    BAD FORM!!!! Let the water under the bridge flow. Why is this guy reopening recently healed wounds?

    December 11, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. Jackie in Dallas

    It is perhaps testament to the Obama creed that EVERY vote counts that this strategy worked. I believe that Hillary went in expecting to win some of those caucuses without campaigning for those votes, due to her better name recognition and visibility. Meanwhile, Obama and his strategists, knowing they faced an uphill effort, made sure that every battle counted, that every vote counted. Sometimes, being second at the start DOES mean you try harder!

    While I admire Hillary's abilities, I think I agree with blogs earlier in the week that she will make a much better Secretary of State than she would have President.

    December 11, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. Marc in Virginia

    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.

    December 11, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. Doc

    This man is a hero that will go down in history as such. I'm proud of him as should his family if he has any.

    December 11, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. MA

    Thou shall not discriminate against a caucus!

    December 11, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Seth

    The headline doesn't match what he says in the article.
    He did not say she would have won, only that she would not have lost by such wide margins.

    December 11, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  10. No Hillary = No Obama

    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.

    December 11, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. Doris,Memphis,TN

    Barack's team is brillant !

    December 11, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Clinton wasn't supposed to win!

    The reason Clinton lost is the reason Obama won. Old school thinking.

    Clinton, like other weathered politicians, forgot there are 50 states.

    The old theory of depending only on 'swing states' to win the US presidency got blown out of the water, as it should be.

    December 11, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    The Hillary people didn't take Obama seriously enough until it was too late. It always spells disaster when you underestimate an opponent.

    December 11, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. Montgomery Scott

    The more they overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to stop of the drain.....

    December 11, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  15. Sweetie

    As a Texan who did the two step I can attest to the fact that what happened in these caucus states had nothing to do with Democracy!

    It was a full on Thug Event, in our state alone more then 2,000 complaints where filed!

    The Chicago Thugs know how to intimate a crowd into seeing things their way!

    December 11, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Peggy - TX

    Sure David Plouffe would not have allowed Clinton to make the many mistakes that she made and because she started with tremendous momentum, no doubt he could have made the difference. But the facts are, she picked mediocre advisors, they put together a mediocre team, her team bickered among themselves, she failed to exhibit strong leadership skills and she failed to present a clear vision of change to the American people.

    Obama picked first rate team, he exhibited strong leadership, solid character and a believable vision of change and so he won. The primary worked effectively in this case to weed out the weak and ineffective and the best person won.

    December 11, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    Jimi, I am glad someone else noticed the spelling error on that word and saw fit to print a correction!

    December 11, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Mike, Syracuse NY

    We knew this in June. What's the news here?

    December 11, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  19. Jim

    Duh. Mr. Plouffe has a gift for stating the obvious.

    December 11, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. ANGIE

    Maybe if Hillary didnt take the low road and agree with republicans all the time then maybe she might have won!

    December 11, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  21. Donna

    And for this reason, the truly, rightful, best candidate will never see the oval office. What a shame.

    December 11, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. A longtime Democrat

    Clinton relied on the people around her, and the media, to put her where she wanted to go.

    Obama camp took nothing for granted, in the primaries, or general election.

    Obama camp out worked the Clinton camp, and the Republicans.

    December 11, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. Caucuses

    Caucuses are not reflective of all people and usually only include party activists. I worked in John Edwards 2004 campaign in Iowa and saw this.
    No absentee ballots for working people, older people usually are not willing to sit for 2 hours, No veterans in Iraq or Afganistan voted, people with kids getting ready to go to bed etc. Caucuses should be done away with. Caucuses take about 2 hours and is public
    Voting takes about 15 minutes and is in private.
    I can understand that Obama was thankful for the caucuses. He lost badly in the primaries when people voted on average.

    December 11, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  24. Tom

    Which proves that ALL states matters. Palin can also take a lesson that
    community organizers that she unwittingly dissed at the convention matter also. Hillary will make a great secretary of state, though.

    December 11, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  25. Nigel Prance

    Given that the Democratic party appropriates it's delegates proportionately - Please proofread your copy - it's = it is

    An English Professor

    December 11, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
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