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. AT

    Stop blaming the media for Clinton's problems. I remember when this all started it was supposed to be Giuliani vs. Clinton. Then McCain vs. Clinton. Obama was never the front runner until he actually was in the lead. Clinton's camp thought it would be over on Super Tuesday but Obama won more states that day. But he then went on to a streak and won like 8 or 9 states in a row.

    They shot themselves in the foot.

    December 11, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. sandee in Portland

    For all you holier than thou feminists out there that haven't been able to move past Hillary not being elected in the Primary, get over it with all the sexist talk. I, for one, am so tired of my gender touting sexism on everything, including Campbell Brown in her commentaries.

    PE Obama ran a great campaign; he got the average person living in our country involved in the political process which hasn't happened for decades. Apathy has been king in our political process for far too long; that wasn't true this year.

    December 11, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. Josh, Charlotte, NC

    Uh...for those of you who are saying the Clinton campaign was arrogant and she felt that she had it made YOUR WRONG! Obama's team was extremely arrogant throughout the whole campaign even belittling many Americans (remember the clinging to weapons and religion) comment! Excuse me!

    December 11, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    Without a doubt this young man is a political stratigist genious and has a bright future in many upcoming campaigns. We can only hope he remains as forward thinking and level headed as he was for Barack Obama. Thank you Mr Ploffe for running a clean, well thought out campaign that was void of the mud slinging and crap throwing that came from the McCain/Palin side and in fact spoiled the whole campaign for everyone. You and your team did a GREAT job.

    December 11, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. Dave in Atlanta

    I've said this before and no one listened to me. Clinton lost the race in the last three weeks of February. 12 states, more than 500 pledged delegates at stake and Clinton lost every single one of those caucuses and primaries, most of them by double digit margins. That's when Obama really took the lead in delegates.

    And Clinton lost it because she put all her money and energy into trying to win on Super Tuesday, and didn't make any plans for continuing to fight on after Super Tuesday. She calls herself a fighter but in the second half of Feb 2008, she capitulated.

    December 11, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  6. janey

    So, now, Obama people are bragging about how crooked they were during the primaries–why am I not surprised. MSM has let them get away with everything–they won but have very little respect for their dirty deeds. What goes around usually comes around..its only a mater of time.....

    December 11, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  7. Virginia

    But she didn't thank goodness. A better treat would have been if Obama hadn't won either!

    December 11, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. tee

    I'm not the media. I would like to think that my voted counted. I listen to and researched both candidates and made my decision. Are you saying the media's votes is the only votes that counted. Intelligent people making an intelligent choice didn't matter?

    December 11, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Jackie, what Obama 'every vote counts' strategy? You mean the one that didn't count half the votes in FL and MI, and gave Obama almost half the MI delegates even though he wasn't on the ballot?

    December 11, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Meh

    Anonymous> Really? You really vote for someone based on her choice of clothing? Wa-how.

    December 11, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  11. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    You all fail to realize, Barack Obama was destined to win this election from the very moment he finished his convention speech in 2004. Hillary should have ran against George Bush in 04 but she wanted to play out her big roll in New York instead. Lots of folks tried to encourage her to run but she resisted.. It's to bad she didn't have the foresight to realize her star was high in the heavens in 04 and started dropping as soon as Kerry got the nomination. You can only fly high for so long on the fact that you "stood by your man" and then folks loose interest. For all you Hillary whiners, she will never be President unless she goes on to do BIG, wonderful things (on her own, without Bill) as Secretary of State and that remains to be seen.

    December 11, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. tee

    Sorry Patty
    My comment was for No Hilliary=No Obama

    December 11, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. tee

    Geat Job!!!!!!!!

    BEST RAN CAMPAIGN EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    December 11, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. SS

    Someone needs to spellcheck these articles!

    December 11, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. tired of corporate politics

    Thanks BOB "we have to undo 400 years of racism and discrimination."

    Did you even read the article?

    Congratulations, you are a mindless surrogate, that degrades serious race discussions with your random auto-blogging from your parents basement. Get out in the light.

    December 11, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  16. John from New Jersey

    Barack Obama is the right man for the times. Hillary had a lot of bagage and in reality was wasn't prepared for prime time. She
    couldn't run her own campaign, and her comment about obliterating Iran was alarming.

    December 11, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. Otto

    One person who should learn a lesson from this is Rudy Giuliani; he laughed at Barack Obama and made jokes at his community organizing skills. I bet he tried to eat those words and wipe his stupid smirk off his face.

    December 11, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. A Canuck

    Because she is a Clinton....Hillary thought the Presidency was going to be handed to her on a silver platter....then reality hit....too late !!!!
    Thank goodness....Obama is doing an amazing job already.

    December 11, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. John

    You mean it wasn't sexism? the media? lack of money?

    December 11, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Richard Neffson

    As I said in an earlier posting let's hope that Hillary has better people surrounding her at the State Department then she did during her presidential campaign. We can also hope that she exercises better judgment and humility as Secretary of State then she did as a presidential candidate.

    December 11, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Yamini Balachandran

    can u shut up now – she is part of the current administration!!!

    December 11, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. CD


    "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!"

    In our precinct, the Hillary camp acted inappropriately. They bullied the whole system and even blocked people from signing the roles until they either left or changed affiliation. When they finally got the guy blocking the table moved, half the room had left because of the tactics and lack of organization. In other words, you can't generalize your experience for all caucuses.

    Nevertheless, I fully believe that if the Texas Democratic Party had better anticipated the turnout, then they could have better prepared the district captains, gotten bigger rooms for the caucuses, and a lot of the issues I experienced would have disappeared. I know the participation was unprecedented but not by the time it had hit Texas.

    December 11, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Beverly, NYC

    Mr. Plouffe, don't give away the ideas, we will need them in 4yrs for another win.

    December 11, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  24. dustin

    oh yea it was all the media, because that whole month about rev wright was to get obama elected....sure....

    December 11, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. virg

    I agree with anonymous @ 2:00. Hilary should have tried some different clothing styles. She could have got on the front page everytime she wore something other than a pant suit. It seemed like she was trying to show us that she was masculine, fearing that being feminine would tranlate into a weakness. What a shame.

    December 11, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8