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About That Mike Henry Memo

By Peter Baker
So was Mike Henry right? Henry was the deputy campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton who last May urged her to skip Iowa and concentrate her resources on later states, particularly the Super Tuesday primaries on Feb. 5. His memo leaked and the campaign quickly renounced it. But was he right?

As part of a reconstruct of the past few weeks and months of the Clinton campaign that ran in the Post this morning, we asked a variety of her top strategists and advisers. After all, looking back today, Henry seems pretty prescient. He called Iowa "our consistently weakest state" and said competing there "will cost over $15M and require 70+ days of Senator Clinton's time" but "we will not have a financial advantage or an organizational advantage over any of our opponents." As a result, he wrote, "this effort may bankrupt the campaign and provide little if any political advantage."

Instead, he urged her to focus more on the Feb. 5 states, including New York, New Jersey and California. He calculated that the first four states -- Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- pick 137 delegates to the nominating convention, or 0.3 percent of all pledged delegates. By contrast, Florida, which votes Jan. 29, and the Feb. 5 states will pick 2,205 delegates, or 66.7 percent of the total, he wrote. A split decision of Iowa and the early states, he concluded would mean that "we now enter into the February 5th mega states with no money, little time to raise it, and have to rely on earned media to get our message out."

In the hindsight-is-perfect department, Henry if anything underestimated the cost. Clinton ended up spending somewhere between $20 million and $25 million in Iowa, though she devoted somewhat less time than he predicted, all or part of 64 days. For all that effort, she came in third place. If it were not for her comeback victory in New Hampshire, she might be toast now, but she does head toward the Feb. 5 showdown with a lot less money and less time on the ground in the more than 20 states that will vote.

Still, most campaign advisers interviewed in recent days have said there was no real choice for Clinton, who aspired to be the most presidential and electable candidate. "She had to go into Iowa," said Mickey Kantor, who was her husband's campaign chairman in 1992 and advises her campaign as well. "You all were going to make Iowa a big deal whether she was there or not. That being the case, she had to play."

A top Clinton campaign official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy, agreed and said there was no point second guessing. "There was a debate internally in the campaign by some -- should we go to Iowa, should we not go to Iowa?" the official recalled. "For me, it was never a question. Hillary Clinton is a national candidate. She had to show she can run everywhere and win everywhere."

Still, the Clintons seemed to leave Iowa with a taste of bitterness. Asked a few days before the Iowa vote whether he agreed that the state's caucuses were unfair and ought to be eliminated, Bill Clinton said no. "Obviously, we don't feel that way about it," he said. But it looked a little different after the vote. "Iowa does not have the best track record in determining who the parties nominate," Hillary Clinton told reporters the day after the caucuses. She added that Iowa "disenfranchised" voters who work at night or were out of state because it does not allow absentee ballots in its caucuses. "So this is going to be a much more representative electorate," she said in New Hampshire.

And next time Mike Henry sends her a memo, maybe she'll give it a second read.

Posted at 11:39 AM ET on Jan 10, 2008  | Category:  Morning Cheat Sheet
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Baker:
"Asked a few days before the Iowa vote whether he agreed that the state's caucuses were unfair and ought to be eliminated, Bill Clinton said no. "Obviously, we don't feel that way about it," he said. But it looked a little different after the vote. "Iowa does not have the best track record in determining who the parties nominate," Hillary Clinton told reporters the day after the caucuses."

Very cute. Are you supposed to be a wiseguy or something? What's your problem? Quit screwing with my political process. It's not a game, real people have real concerns that you obviously couldn't give a crap about. If you don't like it, get out of the business.

Posted by: zukermand | January 10, 2008 3:19 PM

The more people learn about the real Hillary Clinton and her ideas for solving the toughtest problems we face as a country and as a planet, the more people will come out in droves to vote for Hillary Cllinton for President.

Posted by: svreader | January 10, 2008 1:21 PM

If HC had skipped Iowa, her campaign would not have learned how to counter the lies and dirty tricks of the Obama Campaign and the media. This way she and her team learned how to defeat the lies of Obama et al. (Chris Mathews, Tim Russert, Brian Williams, Fred Barnes, it is really a long list).

Posted by: bjoseph1 | January 10, 2008 1:12 PM


It's a learning process. She needed to go through the Iowa campaign and learn that message of the day photo ops don't cut it any more.

She learned how to campaign between that loss and New Hampshire, and the Hillary campaign is better for it now going forward.

$25 million of ad buys in the big states with some bland theme would have actually been wasted, versus an investment in a learning experience in Iowa. And quite frankly, will be wasted going forward just as much.

I'm going to go make another donation to her campaign, with the hope that Hillary doesn't get into stupid market saturation ads of lame slogans.

Hillary needs to stay close to the voters like in New Hampshire, answering questions and showing her personality, somewhere in this country every day, and let video coverage of that be her advertising and news releases.

rd

Posted by: ralphdaugherty | January 10, 2008 12:23 PM

To add to my earlier point -- large-scale strategy seems to have been trumped, in this case, by a short-term focus on making Hillary seem "human."

Posted by: crumbtrail | January 10, 2008 12:15 PM

If HC wins the nomination, will everyone look back at the bump she got before NH as the pivotal moment? If so, would that have been possible if she had been absent from the Iowa Caucuses? My point is that simply focusing on winning, as opposed to momentum, testing and gaining experience, might have been a little short-sighted.

Posted by: crumbtrail | January 10, 2008 12:13 PM

You might be able to make a compelling argument to downplay Iowa & focus on NH & subsequent races, a la the McCain strategy. To skip Iowa and the small races in favor of the Feb 5 bonanza seems like a losing strategy, a la the Giuliani campaign. For a candidate like Sen Clinton, who is fighting the 'aloof' and similar allegations, skipping the early races would compound those criticisms.

Posted by: bsimon | January 10, 2008 11:46 AM

There was simply no way to take Henry's advice and run as the "inevitable" candidate . . .

Posted by: JakeD | January 10, 2008 11:46 AM

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