A hacked email released Saturday by WikiLeaks provided fresh evidence that top aides were frustrated that Hillary Clinton’s campaign lacked a vision or principles beyond simply acquiring power.
In the email, sent on Jan. 22, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta responded glumly to a question from Morgan Stanley executive Tom Nides about how things were going.
“This was bound to happen … We are lucky Sanders will not last. Assuming she losses both she bounces back with ‘fighter’ Hillary. How many times have we seen this movie??”
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“I’m down,” he wrote. “Our team is all tactics and has no idea of how to lift her up.”
It was a tense time for the Clinton campaign, a little more than a week away from the Iowa caucuses with a surging Sen. Bernie Sanders nipping at the heels of the former secretary of state. A Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey had just come out that day showing the Vermont senator with a lead among likely New Hampshire primary voters of 55 percent to 39 percent.
Nides, who had served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources under President Obama, tried to buck up Podesta. He suggested the Clinton could lose Iowa and New Hampshire and still recover.
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“This was bound to happen,” he wrote. “We are lucky Sanders will not last. Assuming she losses both she bounces back with ‘fighter’ Hillary. How many times have we seen this movie??”
It was not the first time that someone in the Clinton camp complained in private emails that the campaign lacked a raison d’être. The candidate, herself, apparently complained.
“HRC just called me and expressed a fair amount of frustration with how things are going,” chief speechwriter Dan Schwerin wrote to the staff days before her first major campaign rally in June 2015. “She said we’ve given a series of very good policy speeches and in between we just keep giving her poll-tested lines that don’t work, like make the middle class mean something.”
Before that, in February 2015 as Clinton was gearing up for her official announcement, adviser Joel Benenson asked if “we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?” He complained that a draft of a Clinton speech that had been circulated was “still not clear [about] what her singular message is.” He pointed to a series of statements that were little more than related platitudes and contrasted it with her emerging rival’s posture.
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“Sanders has simplicity and focus — the corrupt political and economic systems are rigged to keep giving more to the billionaire class while the middle class has been hollowed out,” he wrote. “We have break up the banks, take on wall street to rebuild the middle class reduce income inequality.”