It’s Go Time for Hillary 2.0

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by Michael Scherer,

from TIME Magazine,

The best talent is flocking to join her campaign. But first the Clinton and Obama teams must figure out how to work together.

A pro-Clinton sign outside a fundraiser in Indianola, Iowa

Hillary Clinton has tapped Robby Mook, 35, as her likely campaign manager. His task now, which is occurring far from public view, is at once overwhelming and delectable: to compile a team of strategists, technicians, managers and salespeople from the best of the Clinton and Obama orbits for the most technologically advanced voter-mobilization effort in history. That’s the easy part. Mook will then have to make that group, with its competing egos, allegiances and agendas, work as one under the spotlight of a general election.

s word has spread about the Obama talent signing up for Clinton’s campaign, some outlines of her thinking on 2016 have been revealed. Just as personnel choices often determine policy priorities at a new White House, staff lists can augur a road map for a campaign. And so far, those signals point to a campaign that is being designed to avoid the missteps of Clinton’s first run for President while taking advantage of the technical genius of Obama’s two successful campaigns. The failures of 2008 were many and glaring, but among the biggest was the fact that Clinton’s message was focused on her “ready on Day One” experience, casting her more as an inevitable force of nature than a human being with a story accessible to voters. The campaign also suffered from a senior team that divided against itself in spats that became deeply personal, often spilling into the press.

Even worse, it was out of date from the start, built for a 1990s-style general election that did not profit from the technological advances that made raising small donations and organizing volunteer networks easier than ever before.

The Reset

The team taking shape now is designed to leave these problems in the past. Mook, who worked for Clinton and won in three states during the 2008 campaign, is a field specialist steeped in the latest arts of organizing, having worked on Howard Dean’s 2004 people-powered campaign to pioneer the sort of house-party-focused operations that Obama mastered. His partner on the campaign trail, Marlon Marshall, 35, helped lead Obama’s 2012 field program before working at the White House and is expected to return to Clintonland. They are expected to be joined by Teddy Goff, 29, who ran digital operations for Obama in 2012, refining a high-tech machine that raised about $504 million through online efforts in the 2012 cycle.

Clinton has also recruited two of her former foes from Obama’s fold, despite the roles they played in her 2008 downfall. Jim Margolis, 59, the two-time Obama campaign adman, helped author the Obama story and was directly responsible for the devastating one-minute Iowa television ad that cast Clinton as an insider running “the same old Washington textbook campaigns.”

Margolis will be joined again by Joel Benenson, 62, the lead pollster for both Obama presidential campaigns, who helped craft the change message that Obama used to defeat Clinton’s promise of experience in 2008.

The entire effort is expected to be overseen by John Podesta, 66, a veteran of both Bill Clinton and Obama’s Administrations, who will join the campaign as a chairman.

The question of how all of these people will get along is now the talk of political circles, though both camps are presenting a unified face before anything has a chance to go wrong.

But the past is never past, as the saying goes, and the talk of this precampaign season is whether the unity will last. By some measures, the facade has already begun to fall apart.

On Feb. 9, David Brock, a longtime Clinton ally and a veteran of the 1990s political wars, resigned his post on the board of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by Obama veterans that had been designated to fund a blistering television-ad campaign on behalf of Clinton before the coming general election. He accused unnamed members of the group of orchestrating “a political hit job” against his principal fundraiser, Mary Pat Bonner, who reportedly receives high commissions in excess of 12% on the money she raises.

The break was the first big test of whether the two camps will be able to merge their operations or find themselves competing over control in the back rooms.

Such name-calling wouldn’t matter if Clinton’s allies had not helped set up Brock and Priorities as partners for the coming campaign. Brock’s opposition research group, American Bridge 21st Century, has become the go-to shop for digging up dirt on Republican candidates and is expected to work closely with Priorities in its messaging strategy.

It will fall to Mook to mediate many of these disputes while trying to run a billion-dollar campaign. That sounds impossible and may well be.

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