Monday, April 7, 2008

A Penn-y for Your Thoughts, Hillary

One of Hillary's chief strategists and pollsters Mark Penn made the headlines recently. Most of the coverage surrounded the political implications of Penn being demoted to an advisory role after it came out the PR firm he works for had dealings with Columbia on a trade deal that Hillary opposes. Granted, the Clinton campaign "didn't know" that Norman Hsu was a fugitive from the law when they accepted his donations, so it's possible they didn't know that Penn was working on this deal since early 2007, but I don't buy it.

Instead, I think there's another reason. Hillary is about to enter into a series of contests where every delegate and superdelegate will be crucial. After reckless spending hurt her in the early going, she needs a good showing in the upcoming contests to remain viable and possibly take the nomination to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. To do this, she needs money, or at the very least a better control of the money she has. With her fundraising lagging behind Barack Obama, she needed to cut a few expenses.

And guess who was raking in around a million dollars a month running Hillary's campaign?

If you said Mark Penn, you'd be right.

Granted, this idea only works if Penn's demotion is a non-paying gig, but it serves a few purposes. One, it gives Hillary the ability to refine her message with new strategists at the helm. Two, it deflects attention away from Penn's dealings, which would hurt Hillary's ability to attract the unions and the working people. Three, it punishes Penn for failing Hillary as often as he has without freezing him out completely. But fourth and most importantly, it saves campaign money at a time when it's needed. Even if the fourth option is way off base, the other three are certainly worth their weight in gold.

So, let the majority of the commentators focus on the politics. Follow the money and you might have found out the real reason Mark Penn was busted down to an advisory role.

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