Three more primary losses, not even close. Now it's eight in a row. A slide in the national polls. Staff shakeup: soap-opera-watching campaign manager out, deputy out. Bill's former campaign manager, David Wilhelm, jumps for Barack Obama. Josh Green, in a stunning piece that might be called a meticulously reported notebook dump, says, in The Atlantic, that Mrs. Clinton made personnel decisions based only on loyalty, not talent and skill. (There's a lot of that in the Bush White House. The loyalty obsession is never a sign of health.) The Wall Street Journal reports "internal frictions" flaring in the open, with Clinton campaign guru Mark Penn yelling, "Your ad doesn't work!" to ad maker Mandy Grunwald, who fires back, "Oh, it's always the ad, never the message." (This is a classic campaign argument. The problem is almost always the message. Getting the message right requires answering this question: Why are we here? This is the hardest question to answer in politics. Most staffs, and gurus, don't know or can't say.) On a conference call Tuesday morning, Mr. Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, told reporters Mrs. Clinton simply cannot catch up. It is "next to impossible" for her to get past him on pledged delegates, she'd need "a blowout victory" of 20 to 30 points in the coming states, the superdelegates will "ratify" what the voters do. (I wrote in my notes, "not gloating -asserting as fact.") Within the hour Mr. Plouffe's words were headlined on Politico, made Drudge, and became topic one on the evening news shows. Veteran Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier took a stab at an early postmortem in what seemed a long-suppressed blurt: The Clintons always treated party leaders as "an extension of their . . . ambitions," "pawns in a game of success and survival. She may pay a high price for their selfishness soon." He cited party insiders: Superdelegates "won't hesitate to ditch" Mrs. Clinton if her problems persist. To top it all off, Mrs. Clinton has, for 30 years, held deep respect for her husband's political acumen, for his natural, instinctive sense of how to campaign. And he's never let her down. Now he's flat-footed, an oaf lurching from local radio interview to finger-pointing lecture. Where did the golden gut go? How did his gifts abandon him? Abandon her? Her campaign blew through $120 million. How did this happen?
The thing about that paragraph is it could be longer.
EJ Dionne provides his thoughts on "what happened to Hillary Rodham Clinton?" Last fall, she was the 'inevitable' nominee whose 'machine' would raise scads of cash and push her to an early victory.... But this narrative was flawed from the beginning" and "her campaign has suffered from profound organizational failures."
Clinton has offered experience and some well-thought-out policies. That might be enough in a different year. But when it comes to a larger theme, her campaign has been all over the lot. You can tell a campaign has difficulty establishing a message when its slogans keep changing. In recent weeks, the Clinton campaign has featured one banner after another: "Big Challenges, Real Solutions," "Working for Change, Working for You," "Ready for Change, Ready to Lead" and "Solutions for America." Obama has stuck confidently with the slogan "Change We Can Believe In." Clinton must either get voters to stop believing in the change Obama promises, or make them an alternative Big Offer that they can believe in more.
Hillary Clinton's attempt to define a narrative of her own has been hobbled because her campaign is defined by the rejection of rhetoric. Obama's eloquence and idealism are dismissed as "abstract" and a "fairy tale" in contrast to Clinton's experience and policy substance. It is difficult for a campaign to inspire while using "inspiration" as an epithet. Though it is increasingly unlikely, Clinton may still have a path to the nomination - and what a path it is. She merely has to puncture the balloon of Democratic idealism; sully the character of a good man; feed racial tensions within her party; then eke out a win with the support of unelected superdelegates, thwarting the hopes of millions of new voters who would see an inspiring young man defeated by backroom arm-twisting and arcane party rules. Unlikely - but it would be a fitting contribution to the Clinton legacy of monumental selfishness.