Strategy, timing and luck: why Clinton won

Click to follow
The Independent US

The television networks had just declared Ohio for Hillary Clinton and the crowd cramming the ballroom inside the Athenaeum in central Columbus was raising the roof. "I have only one thing to say," Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, almost crooned into the microphone: "I told you so!"

Ms Tubbs Jones, the most visible Clinton backer in the Buckeye State, was telling no lie. But she knew well that until that moment there had been no divining what would happen here or in Texas on this night. When Mrs Clinton took the stage a few seconds later you could read the "Ooof" in her eyes.

Did she have a surrender speech prepared for Tuesday night, just in case? (Teleprompter screens erected on the stage were suddenly removed before her arrival and she read instead from notes.) The rest of us, at least, had our alternative scripts ready, and she knew it. Clinton loses, Clinton bows out.

For now, however, they are well and truly torn up. She didn't utter the words "Comeback Kid" herself, but, introducing her, Ohio's Governor Ted Strickland was unable to resist. Certainly, she knew, however, that once more she had stepped to the edge of the cliff and pulled herself at the last possible moment on to safe – or at least safer – ground again. Just like in New Hampshire.

Her win in Ohio, she said, was dedicated to "everyone who has been counted out but refused to be knocked out... everyone who has stumbled and pulled themselves up." Yes, that would be Hillary. "This one is for you." As she spoke, the outcome in Texas was still unclear. But she got that one too.

It is Barack Obama who likes to say he senses "something happening" in the country. But these recent days that something rolled heavily in Mrs Clinton's favour. Exit polling showed that, in the three days running up to Tuesday, undecided voters broke almost two to one in her favour.

She was helped by good luck, good timing and – at last – good strategy by her usually feuding campaign staff. Aides circulating in the crowed Athenaeum were not coy admitting that one television spot had probably helped especially: the "red phone" advert asking voters who they would like in the White House at 3am when an international crisis breaks.

Maybe things started turning that Saturday 10 days ago when the newly negative Mrs Clinton came to the fore berating Mr Obama for flyers questioning her commitment to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. She ended her tirade with "Meet me in Ohio". The four words became a mantra for her Buckeye supporters. After that, word came that she would throw the "kitchen sink" at her rival. And she did.

With two slack weeks before Tuesday, the media – with prompting from Mrs Clinton – began belatedly to examine the record of Mr Obama more closely, at his relationship with Tony Rezko, a Chicago donor on trial for fraud, and at his failure to hold any hearings in the Senate subcommittee he chairs. Mrs Clinton took Mr Obama's Nafta charges and threw them right back at him. After weeks of some empty seats, the Clinton campaign plane has once more been packed with reporters in recent days. They booked their spots to write the "Clinton crushed" story. But yesterday, they had a whole new narrative to consider. Clinton claws back – by any means necessary.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

Comments