Mark Penn is wrong about why Clinton lost Iowa (w/poll)

I saw at Iowa Independent that Hillary Clinton's former pollster and adviser, Mark Penn, is claiming there could have been a "different outcome" in Iowa if John Edwards had been out of the race.

My conversations with hundreds of Edwards supporters suggested that many preferred Barack Obama or one of the longshot Democratic contenders to Clinton. David Redlawsk has data to back up my anecdotes:

University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk conducted a caucus night survey on second choices. "We asked people 'If your candidate is not viable, what will you do?' 82 percent of Edwards supporters said they would support another candidate and 18 percent would not," said Redlawsk. "When we asked which candidate they would then support, 32 percent said Clinton and 51 percent said Obama. Had this actually happened statewide, Obama would have been even further ahead of Clinton."

"As the campaign progressed few Edwards people gave any indication that Clinton was their second choice," said Redlawsk [...].

I stand by my contention that given the Obama campaign's almost unlimited resources and well-executed strategy, there is little Clinton or Edwards could have done differently to win the Iowa caucuses.

Incidentally, Clinton still has debt from her presidential campaign, including unpaid bills to Penn. I don't think he deserves to collect, given the bad advice he gave his client, like pivoting to a "general election strategy" in October 2007 and having no "plan B" in case the campaign went beyond Super Tuesday.

UPDATE: Please take the poll after the jump on the Clinton campaign's biggest strategic error.

  • If Edwards was not running, Obama won have won in a landslide

    Clinton still would have gotten her 28.whatever%, but Obama would have gotten 40+%.

    • that's what I think

      He already was well on the way to mobilizing tons of new caucus-goers in the summer and early fall.

  • My thoughts the night before the caucus

    • Deeth nailed it

      As a once and future Clintonista, I can vouch for a general feeling of something being "off" as the caucus went on. Little things that added up to big things in hindsight.

      If I had to land on one cause, it would have to be the general election strategy shift--but it was more than that, really. The general election strategy shift made everyone in the office overconfident. Two weeks out from the caucus, all the "interns" were worrying about where they were going next--unlike the Obama team, who knew if they didn't win, they were done. Money was being spent like it meant nothing, because if she won the primaries--it wouldn't mean anything.

      One big thing I saw was that wasn't mentioned was that the campaign was very top-heavy. There wasn't much room for local decision making. HQ said everyone had to make X number of calls every day, so cool "Obama" things like chalking the sidewalks or talking to people on the streets were out the window. If HQ said we were having a rally in a barn in Amana, even though you could reach so many more people by meeting in Iowa City--than that's what HQ said. And if HQ called the campaign office two days before the event, that's all the better.  

      Hillary never understand the spirit of Iowa and the caucus, and the campaign didn't understand it, and ultimately the campaign never made anyone at the local level get it either.

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