But Clinton’s great failing, the book — not to mention the election itself — makes clear, was her inability to fashion a message. She knew why she was running for president: It was her turn. But she could not say that. She could not merely say that she was prepared, a walking briefing book. Policies coursed through her body like blood cells. She knew everything. She was, in the famous formulation of Isaiah Berlin, a fox. Trump was a hedgehog. He knew just one thing: why he wanted to be president….The other word that keeps coming at you is “message.” Clinton did not have one, and the search for a message preoccupied her staff. Oddly, and fatally, Clinton left it up to them to articulate why she was running. As a mental exercise, I tried to come up with a message myself: “Hillary Clinton — because she’s not Trump” is the best I could do. As it turned out, she could do no better.
Bernie Sanders, in contrast, knew why he was running, and his supporters knew it, too. He was something of a biblical figure. He wanted to smite the big banks and put some Wall Street heads on the end of a pike. It was, in his own way, a position paper.
But it’s now clear that Mrs. Clinton was weaker heading into Oct. 28 than was understood at the time. Several other polls were conducted over the same period that showed Mr. Trump gaining quickly on Mrs. Clinton in the days ahead of the Comey letter. And the timing of these polls — particularly the gap between when they were taken and when they were released — has probably helped to exaggerate the effect of Mr. Comey’s letter on the presidential race.
WASHINGTON — For those still baffled about how Donald Trump won the presidency, a new book provides some answers.
It doesn’t deal with what he did right in his victory over Hillary Clinton. Instead, it focuses on the multiple things that Clinton and her bloated team of advisers did wrong.
In that sense, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” should be required reading for anyone planning to run a political campaign. Learn what she did, do the exact opposite and you might have a chance to win.
The authors, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, are seasoned political reporters who take the reader inside the clutter of the Clinton campaign. While there is a “trust us” element to the writing, in that the authors rely on scores of unnamed sources, they focus on a series of poor decisions made by her advisers, who all seemed to dislike one other.
They apparently adopted the foolish idea that after three decades in American politics, Clinton could not possibly connect with blue-collar voters scattered in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
So they crafted a campaign to ensure women, African-Americans and Hispanics voted in such large numbers that white men and women from middle-class areas would be a luxury. By doing so, they invited Trump to win enough of those voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin to take the election.
But the greatest problem, as the authors make clear, was the candidate herself. Regarded by everyone as bright and experienced, Clinton nevertheless was cautious and never articulated any message that could appeal to a broad range of voters. At times, her sole reason for running seemed to be — as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote last year — “It’s my turn, dammit.”
Her campaign slogan was “Stronger Together,” a poll-tested declaration so bland that Clinton herself didn’t like it all that much. As the authors wrote, Clinton “lived for the complexity.” But anyone with a sense of campaigns knows that politics is poetry, and a simple message beats complex all the time.
Nothing illustrates her convoluted style better than her preparation for her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last summer. “In hallmark fashion, Clinton had set up two separate and isolated teams to write her convention speech,” “Shattered” says.
Political professionals such as John F. Kennedy relied on a small core of brilliant writers, such as Ted Sorenson, to write the poetry. By using competing factions, Clinton got the inevitable — a bland, lengthy speech that meandered into a laundry list of every program she wanted to push through Congress.
The book is fast-paced and exceptionally well-done, although a few cliches get in the way, such as when the authors describe vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine “as dull as a month-old razor.”
Today, Clinton likes to blame Russian interference, sexism among voters and FBI Director James Comey for his handling of the investigation into her emails. But the real reason she lost a race no Democrat ever should have lost is she lacked a compelling message.
Those without a message usually lose.