WASHINGTON The question generates strong sentiment, though, that Clinton
simply can't compete on charisma, that there are forces at play
beyond her control. Going negative could backfire, they warn.
Laying out nitty-gritty policy details isn't enough, they say.
There's no shortage of advice, but also no shortage of
head-scratching. Add it all up, and there doesn't appear to be a
secret plan to save her candidacy.
A sampling of Democratic voices from the field:
SHOW PASSION: "The challenge for Hillary Clinton is to be seen
as an agent of change, to recapture the passion that the people who
support her really have for her," says Kari Chisholm, a political
consultant in Oregon who blogs at www.blueoregon.com. "I'm not
sure that I'd want to be in the shoes on her team. ... She's
considered the same old, same old, and she's not. But she's having
trouble communicating that." Chisholm said Clinton should hit her
universal health care message harder, stop using Washington
insiders to defend her on cable TV and "find a way to communicate
some excitement." Chisholm supported John Edwards, and says he
could go either way between Clinton and Obama.
IT'S THE ECONOMY. AGAIN: "HRC's firewall must be predicated on
message," says Chris Lehane, a political consultant in California
and former aide to President Clinton. "She is THE candidate who
the public, press and pundits by instinct, temperament and history
believe is the best on the economy at the exact time the economy is
THE brooding, omnipresent force hovering over both the primary and
general electorate." Lehane is backing Clinton.
GO NEGATIVE: "She needs to come in strong," says Judy
Carpenter, a third-grade teacher from Delaware, Ohio, who turned
out at a Clinton rally at Ohio State last week. "I don't like
vicious attacks. But gosh darn, she needs to call him on some
things." Carpenter supports Clinton.
MAYBE NOT: A candidate goes negative "at great risk," says
Mitch Ceasar, the party chairman in Florida's Broward County. "You
can alienate people. It's less of a risk for Republicans, because
they're better at it and everybody expects it from them." Clinton,
he says, should "talk about the distinctions" between herself and
Obama on the issues .
DEFINITELY NOT: Going negative "positively would be the
absolutely wrong thing to do," says Ed Treacy, a former county
party chairman in Indiana. "Democrats do not want to see them
fighting at all. ... I'm not sure what she can do. So much of it is
his momentum." Treacy hasn't endorsed a candidate.
THE FORCE: "The most important thing is that the force is with
Obama," says Glenn Browder, a former Alabama congressman and now
professor emeritus at Jacksonville State University. "The election
seems to be moving in his favor, and I don't believe that issues
have much to do with it right now. It's not as if she could all of
a sudden start pointing this or that out about his positions or his
votes, and that would change things very much. He is a movement
that goes beyond issues." Going negative could backfire on
Clinton, Browder says, but it might help if the media or
independent groups took on Obama. Browder is neutral in the race.
REMEMBER IRAQ: "If she could come up with a more specific war
plan," says Marcia Mainord, president of Texas Democratic Women.
"That's what I hear people talking about. Who's going to end the
war." Mainord is personally supporting Clinton but hasn't made a
BE YOURSELF: "She's a very engaging, very warm person if she
lets that side of her be seen," says Warren Tolman, a former
Massachusetts state senator. "There's a very warm, compassionate
side that isn't often enough seen." Three things Clinton should
do, according to Tolman: "Be yourself. Show compassion. Look like
she's having fun." Tolman has endorsed Obama.
READY TO DELIVER: "There is a narrative to be told that she
hasn't quite put all together," says Tom Swan, who directs a
citizen action group in Connecticut. "But she's close, on health
care and her experience and her scars make her the one who can
deliver now." Swan voted in the Connecticut primary but hasn't
publicly endorsed anyone.
GRASS-ROOTS ORGANIZE: "I am obsessive about precinct-based
organizing," says Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee who
lost to George H.W. Bush. "We've got to get serious about this
stuff. It's not just money and media." Dukakis, teaching a course
this winter at UCLA, says Obama has done more local organizing than
Clinton. He adds that neither candidate should be faulted for
failing to do much of it in Ohio and Texas, which vote March 4,
because no one thought the nomination race would extend beyond
Super Tuesday. Dukakis hasn't endorsed a candidate.
STEADY AS SHE GOES: "You've got a strategy, stick with the
strategy," says Jim Crog, a longtime party operative in Florida.
"Ride it and make it work. One of the most detrimental things a
campaign can be involved in is a what-if campaign: What if we do
this? What if we do that? You'll be literally bouncing around the
room and off the walls." Crog hasn't endorsed a candidate.
McCAIN FACTOR: "She's got to convince Democrats that, contrary
to what the polls now show, that in the end she's going to be a
better candidate against John McCain," says Garry South, a
longtime Democratic operative in California. Can she still win the
nomination? "Unfortunately, I don't think there is a secret
formula," says South. "There comes a time when the worm turns,
when the momentum shift is clear. And when that sort of thing
happens, there just aren't a lot of options for the candidate who
is trailing at that point." South hasn't endorsed a candidate.
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