Bloomberg hosts Mark Halperin and John Heilemann blamed Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for her presidential campaign’s recent struggles, saying she is the cause of and only person who can fix the problems rather than her staff and surrogates.
“This is a problem that goes to the core not just of the Clinton campaign, not to her strategy and strategists, or her polling and pollsters,” Heilemann said. “It goes to [Clinton]. She’s the only one who can fix it.”
Halperin added that “if [Clinton] has a good message, her husband can amplify it, other surrogates can amplify it. But she’s letting these people go out and say things that she’s not willing to say. And other candidates can maybe get away with that, but Hillary Clinton cannot … She’s got to be driving the message of this campaign, and she’s not right now.”
The two commentators were discussing the emphasis Clinton has placed on utilizing high profile surrogates on the campaign trail, like her husband and daughter, as well as other big name political figures and celebrities.
Halperin and Heilemann also addressed the current turmoil surrounding the Clinton campaign as her team is considering a staff shake-up after the former secretary of state lost the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night by over twenty points to opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt).
“We saw that coming a mile away,” Heilemann said to Halperin. “You remember when the campaign first got announced, we would talk to senior Clinton people who had signed up for it … they sort of had a pool about when they would get fired, when the first shake-up would be.”
Halperin agreed, saying such trouble “always happens when a Clinton campaign goes bad” and that there are now tensions between Clinton and her staff. He added that the situation, while not dire, is still “not so great.”
Both hosts also said Clinton’s biggest problem is not her campaign but that she is a weak candidate who is struggling to counter Sanders’ momentum.
“What do the Democratic professionals not officially affiliated with the Clinton campaign think is the problem with Hillary Clinton and her operation?” Heilemann asked Halperin.
“That she’s not a great candidate,” Halperin replied. “That her message is still really muddy and that she’s swimming upstream. She’s trying to run as the change candidate against a guy [Sanders] who is just always going to win on who represents change.”
Heilemann said that Sanders has trounced Clinton so far with “the whole bottom half of the age spectrum,” including winning seven out of ten women under the age of 45.
“That is a brutal number, not just because she should be winning women as the first potential woman president, but because it suggests that if [Sanders] can win with those people, he can win with African Americans and Hispanics in that same age cohort,” Heilemann said.
Clinton’s campaign has maintained that, despite a rough start, she enjoys widespread support among minority voters, which they argue will help her when the primary process moves to the South.
For months, Clinton was considered the presumptive Democratic nominee and leading by a wide margin in almost every poll, but her advantage has evaporated recently. She and Sanders virtually tied in the Iowa caucuses, although she technically won by a narrow margin, and the former secretary of state lost in New Hampshire by more than twenty points to Sanders, a self-declared socialist.
“In the end, a campaign’s failings are always reflective of the person who is running that campaign, the principal,” Heilemann said. “And to the extent that Hillary Clinton had trouble in 2008, and to the extent she is having trouble now, it goes to her weaknesses. That’s the only answer, the only way to fix it.”