Clinton pollster urges senator to go relentlessly negative

Doug Schoen, Bill Clinton's former pollster, says Hillary "needs to completely abandon her positive campaign."

Topics: 2008 Elections, War Room,

Democrats can disagree about the merit of Hillary Clinton’s negative campaigning over the last few months. Clinton supporters argue that the attacks against Barack Obama have been fair and accurate, and if he can’t overcome the harsh criticism now, he’ll wither against the GOP in the fall. Obama supporters argue, of course, that the attacks have been counter-productive, inaccurate, and eerily similar to rhetoric coming from the right.

What seems far less debatable is the reality of the negative dynamic. Clinton campaign staffers were themselves referring to the attack plan as far back as February as the “kitchen-sink strategy.” Some party leaders have called it the “Tonya Harding option.” Putting aside whether the attacks are fair, warranted, or effective, they exist. Indeed, in some ways, they’re a selling point — the Clinton campaign has subtly argued, “By hitting Obama hard now, we’re proving what we’re capable of against McCain.”

Given this, I was confused by this Washington Post piece from Doug Schoen, Bill Clinton’s former pollster and a former partner of Mark Penn. As Schoen sees it, Clinton’s problem is that she’s refused to go negative at all.

Hillary Clinton took an important step Monday toward winning the Democratic nomination by launching an ad targeting Barack Obama’s recent comments about working-class voters clinging to “guns or religion.” The ad is a marked change from her recent determination to use a positive message until the Democratic convention, but for Clinton to capture the nomination she needs to completely abandon her positive campaign and continue to hammer away at Obama. [...]

As the underdog, Clinton’s positive message will not work unless she is able to undermine Obama’s candidacy…. Although voters and the media look favorably upon a positive campaign message, and Clinton is acutely conscious that too much negativity and too many personal attacks will hurt her party in November, a positive message is simply not enough to alter the race at this point. It is too late for Clinton to wait for Obama to make another mistake.

If Schoen wanted to argue that Clinton needs to be even more negative, I’d understand his point. But Clinton “needs to completely abandon her positive campaign”? She’s shown “determination to use a positive message until the Democratic convention”? I don’t imagine even Clinton’s most enthusiastic fans would agree with this.

John Heilemann has a fascinating item on McCain in the new issue of New York magazine, and he spoke with one leading Republican Party official about how the GOP would go after Obama in the general election. “Our strategy will look a fair amount like the one that Hillary is running against him now,” the official said.

If Clinton were running an exclusively “positive campaign,” somehow I doubt Republican officials would make a comment like this.

Now, Schoen may believe Clinton doesn’t have any other choice, and he may very well be right. But for him to argue that Clinton hasn’t gone negative in recent months casts doubt on the rest of his thesis.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>