Hillary Clinton’s strategy team, led by Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn, is preparing an assault on Barack Obama’s readiness to be commander-in-chief. It’s a lousy plan that smacks of desperation and will only serve the best interests of inevitable Republican nominee John McCain.
The Corner, a great National Review blog on politics, relayed Penn’s strategy as outlined today on a conference call with reporters. Penn suggested Clinton would be a better CIC than both Obama and McCain, a bold assertion that the campaign is no doubt banking on to bring Clinton back from the brink.
Howard Wolfson, another of Hillary’s veteran PR strategists, had this to say when asked if the “unfit for command” tack would hurt Obama if he is the nominee:
"We don't believe that he is the one who will face John McCain. This is a legitimate question that Sen. Obama would face if he were the nominee, and it is a question that he is facing as a result of criticism from Sen. McCain now, so I think it's perfectly appropriate."
Clinton’s campaign is over. The latest blow (besides the defeat in Wisconsin) is the pending endorsement of Obama by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. That will likely lead to an endorsement by the five-million strong Change to Win labor coalition, which includes seven major unions and is crucial support for Obama to shore up one of the few demographics with which he’s lagged — blue-collar workers. It’s also significant because several labor leaders complained to the Clinton camp last year about Burson-Marsteller’s ties to Cintas (sub req'd), the uniform maker fighting off a union push by the Teamsters.
As the New York Times’ Caucus blog noted: That will give Mr. Obama increased momentum and help him in a group where he has been struggling — with blue-collar workers, especially white, male blue-collar workers. The Teamsters represents more than one million truck drivers, warehouse workers, police officers and other workers, and its membership is extremely strong in two upcoming battlegrounds — Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Clinton has been on the ropes since the days after Super Tuesday. The senator and her team have been touting an economic message since then, a strategy that has failed to provide any momentum for her much-pitched comeback (unlike what it did for her husband years ago in New Hampshire) and made little or no ground against Obama’s surge in momentum.
As Dow Jones pointed out, despite her consistent economic message of late, Clinton’s “edge with white women, working-class voters and those worried about a recession has been eliminated ahead of must-win contests in Texas and Ohio.” The economy is a huge issue in manufacturing heavy Ohio, where, along with Texas, the Clinton camp is planning its last stand. But as DJ noted:
“Still, Clinton lost soundly among Wisconsin voters most worried about the economy. Just 41% of those voters were for Clinton, compared to 57% for Obama. That may be a bad omen for Ohio.”