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. Tony

    The Democratic party's mentality is "you're either with us or against us". And since their nomination process is specifically designed so that the decision is with the party rather than the people, there was no chance that Hillary was going to win. Obama is lock-step with the Democratic party, voting 100% of the time in their interest, so of course he was gonna win the nomination no matter what.

    December 11, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. Greg, IL

    Plouffe Daddy is a genius.

    December 11, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. stoterau

    The key for Hillary to have won the Iowa Caucus was retired school teachers. They are very large in numbers, and they are largely females (and they are spread all across the state). If she had focused on this group and gotten them behind her, she would have won the Iowa Caucus and the Nomination.

    December 11, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  4. Brook

    Hillary's calves are the size of her thighs so she wore pants to hide them.

    December 11, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  5. Ernie

    To Anonymous.. You would have given Hillary your support if she did not wear pants suits??? That's a hell of a reason not to support someone. She looks a lot better in anything compared to big butt Michelle.

    December 11, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  6. Chrissy, CA

    I love the fact that Hillary wanted to kick her heels back and coast down the hill after Super Tuesday. Barack and the O Team changed all of that and forced her to recognize EVERY state. It was magical. I loved every minute of it. Americans were on a roll and we were not looking back; we were determined to take our country back. It worked.

    Thank you Plouffe for a wonderful ride.

    December 11, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. Joe Fattal

    Hillary never had a chance to win, niether anyone. Obama has a talent, he can sell you anything, he can even sell a pencil with no led in it. He sold to people lots of ideas, it will remain to be seen if he will keep his words. He is young, can artculate very good, and he can make speeches, write them himself, or with someone else help. Lots of bull, now will see if can deliver.

    December 11, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. JFK

    Its okay, I still think she is great and ran a good race. It made our country better for it and hopefully will bring some needed change to the primary process. We need an all at once 50 state primary!

    December 11, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. aware

    Right! And instead we have the guy who marinated and operated in Chicago dirty politics for PEBO. 🙁

    December 11, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. Elizabeth in Texas


    I voted and caucused in a heavily populated part of Dallas and it was awesome! GO OBAMA!

    December 11, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  11. Robert NYC

    Hillary Clinton lost because ALL the media were on their knees in front of God Obama. The media in this country makes you and then breaks you.

    I voted for Jerk Obama, no other choice.

    December 11, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. FAYE, NV

    Obama and his staff was great. Obama team sat a presendent for the first of all times. No other candidate has done what Obama did. His team and his confident in the system paid off big. Who will ever bet him for a president election even after his term is over with?

    December 11, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. Orizu

    Nothing could have prevented OBAMA from winning the primary and thus the general election. It was time for a new begining in the US politics.Our Lord is alive.

    December 11, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  14. aware


    Barack's team are thugs! 🙁

    December 11, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  15. Steven

    Anonymous December 11th, 2008 2:00 pm ET
    Because Hillary doesn't feel the need to show some leg. She promotes policy not a quick sexual stimulant in order to get votes.

    December 11, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  16. Michael "C" Lorton,Virginia

    It is always easier to have the answer-especially after you have won the election–Hillary wasn't hungry enough–instead of fighting-she thought she was "annointed"-and history will record her as that.

    December 11, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. Orizu

    Nothing could have prevented OBAMA from winning the primary and thus the general election. It was time for a new begining in the US politics.Our Lord is alive.

    December 11, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. Muin

    Good students focus on key topics before exam. Focusing on cacaus delegates is kinda similar to any exam preparation. Well whoever was focused on this simple and fundamental strategy won the election. However, I think Obama's inspiring speeches and answer to every single question raised during the campaign won him the election.

    December 11, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. MSM

    You're welcome.

    December 11, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. Anonymous too

    This piece needs some serious proofreading.

    December 11, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Tired of W, OH

    To all those complaining about the big bad Chicago thugs intimidating caucus-goers............................................


    December 11, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. Noel

    Plouffe should stop talking about the campaign. It's behind us, and now we have to start fixing the nation. Besides, the more he talks, the more Hillary will get mad.

    December 11, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. Gaurang (Barack Obama Supporter and multiple times Donor)

    Kudos to Plouffe, Axelrod, Gibbs and ofcourse the man himself, President-elect Obama! Once you beat Clinton, then McShame was an easy task. A recently released article talks about Joe the Plumber who was "appalled" at McCain after knowing how dumb McShame really was.

    December 11, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. PastorGene

    There is an interesting parallel between Hillary Clinton's strategy for winning the nomination and George W. Bush's strategy for Iraq. Both expected a proverbial "cake walk." Bush expected Iraqis to welcome US troops as "liberators" and had no plan beyond removing Sadam Hussein, apparently having given little thought to what would happen after that. Likewise, Hillary thought her nomination was inevitable and expected it to be locked up by "Super Tuesday" and had no plan in place for beyond that.

    Now, given this parallel and the disastrous consequence of Bush's shortsightedness, shouldn't we all be greatly relieved not to have elected another President with such presumption, narrow vision, and inadequate planning?

    December 11, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. canadian pov

    It worked out fine. She made Obama work hard for the nomination and he became a better candidate and hopefully a better president for it. Huge fan of Mrs. Clinton but I don't think she could have transformed the population the way that Obama did.

    December 11, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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