Before I get started here, I just want to say that it seems a bit odd to me to read New York Times stories on the MSNBC website, especially since I read stories from both sources pretty much every day. Shouldn't they be competitors? And isn't this a sign of even greater media consolidation?
Anyway, the NYTMSNBC article I'm responding to this morning has to do with Hillary Clinton's campaign, and all the turmoil inside it. It seems to me that the article is a thesis in search of proof: Clinton's campaign struggled both early on and in the middle of the process, and that caused tensions to rise, which was exacerbated by Clinton's management style.
It's a bit of a circular argument. Clinton was expected to do well, and when she finished a close third in Iowa, tension mounted inside the campaign, as it always will when a candidate fails to meet expectations. One can argue that the expectations were too high to begin with, but the reality is that Clinton was the front-runner from before she announced, and that carries a lot of pressure. When she fell short in Iowa, the pressure mounted, and stories about turmoil in the campaign start to leak out.
It's obvious there were some problems. Clinton's campaign has had more success in recent days--the primary process has turned to slightly more fertile ground for her and her attacks have gotten more focused (and I would argue, more unfair and ill-advised)--and these changes have come about since Clinton shook up her campaign, replacing Patti Solis-Doyle with Maggie Williams.
But that can't be the only reason, I suppose, so the reporters ask an expert:
“She hasn’t managed anything as complex as this before; that’s the problem with senators,” said James A. Thurber, a professor of government at American University who is an expert on presidential management. “She wasn’t as decisive as she should have been. And it’s a legitimate question to ask: Under great pressure from two different factions, can she make some hard decisions and move ahead? It seems to just fester. She doesn’t seem to know how to stop it or want to stop it.”It's because she's a Senator? Last I checked, there are three Senators left in the race, and barring some bizarre turn of events, one of them will be the next President--the first time since 1960, granted--but I hardly think their Senator-ness is the defining factor here.
McCain had his problems early in his campaign, shook up his campaign staff, and then lucked into a primary season that combined winner-take-all states with a divided conservative base to hand him the nomination. Mitt Romney would still be in this thing, along with Mike Huckabee, if the Republican candidates were chosen the way the Democrats choose theirs, because McCain would be nowhere near the delegate count necessary. And Obama's campaign has been successful up to this point, which means the tension level is lower simply because they're winning.
Three candidates, three different situations, and the one factor they have in common is that they're all Senators. That pretty much seems to disprove Professor Thurber's thesis. If being a Senator had that large an effect, it would be bothering all of these Senators. I suspect it might have a bit more to do with the individual candidates.
Had her strategy worked and Obama's flopped, I wonder if we'd have heard the same claim about his Senator-ness being the reason for it? Or if Romney had beaten out McCain, would Thurber have made the same call?