Monday, February 11, 2008

Break out the brooms

Barack Obama made it 5-for-5 Sunday with a win in the Maine caucuses (,, completing a sweep of the weekend's primary action.

That led Hillary Clinton to break out a broom of her own: She swept out campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and replaced her with longtime adviser Maggie Williams. Clinton herself put on a brave face while discussing the change with national media: the move wasn't indicative of any sea change in the campaign, she said; it was just a natural progression because this had already been a long campaign.

Privately, though, Clinton campaign staffers intimate that the change had been in the works since the former first lady's defeat in Iowa, and it was just a matter of time until it happened. Over the weekend, it appeared that Williams began to step up and take control; after that, all that remained was the official announcement.

This happened against a backdrop of a new awareness that top level advisers began to have about the campaign's financial and structural disarray. The volunteer base is not what it should be at this point; the campaign is strapped for cash; internally, some staffers were still going to Doyle for direction while others had already begun to take marching orders from Williams.

All this led, predictably, to what the New York Times reports in its Tuesday editions: that Clinton had a conference call Monday with "donors, superdelegates and other supporters" wherein she struggled to convince them that "the nomination is not slipping away from her"

The concern among Clinton faithful is understandable. Pundits -- and the campaign itself -- fully predict Obama to sweep Tuesday's so-called Potomac Primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. In fact, it could be March 4 before Clinton sees another victory. And while she will still be earning delegates in states Obama wins (as long as she registers at least 15 percent support in those states, as she presumably will), the concern is about the tsunami of support, victories and momentum Obama will be riding in to contests in Texas and Ohio on March 4.

Talking heads discussed tonight how Rudy Giuliani's strategy of Florida as a firewall after losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina failed him. I noted in a column last month that it's difficult to remain in the national consciousness as a winner if you aren't winning for a month or more. That hurt Giuliani, to be left out of the national conversation as a winner for three weeks headed in to Florida. It remains to be seen whether Clinton can take that risky formula and will success out of it on March 4.