Hillary Clinton’s loss at the hands of Donald Trump last November is the single biggest upset in modern presidential politics. I’ve spent the intervening months trying to understand what Clinton’s defeat said about the electorate, about Clinton and about the campaign she ran. Now, there’s a book that does all of that for me! “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” by Amie Parnes and Jon Allen came out today, offering a blow-by-blow account of exactly how Clinton lost a race everyone – including her! – thought was un-loseable. I reached out to Amie and Jon to talk to them about the book, what they learned about Clinton and who, really, deserves the blame for her loss. Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.
Cillizza: Your reporting suggested that Clinton might lose even as the media narrative was that she was going to coast to a win. Why the disconnect?
Parnes/Allen: The media are limited in the data they’re seeing and the data they saw suggested she was in a position to win.
For the public polls it’s embarrassing to be off. But for her analytics team it was consequential to be off.
We talk a lot about data analytics and polling in the book and while it’s not knowable whether she would have corrected effectively had she known the actual state of the race, being in the dark meant she didn’t even know she needed to change course.
Cillizza: The image you paint of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the book is one of chaos, warring factions and second-guessing. Wasn’t the 2016 campaign supposed to be different than her 2008 race?
Parnes/Allen: Yes and it was. They did a good job keeping that stuff under wraps. The main difference between ‘08 and ‘16 is that this stuff, for the most part, didn’t leak. What we found in talking to sources was that people were so afraid of causing attention to problems, but there were voices inside Clintonworld and outside the campaign that were pointing to some of these problems. But they were largely ignored or pushed aside. One of the many examples is the fraught relationship between the campaign chairman John Podesta and Robby Mook, which we unearth in the book.
Cillizza: What did you learn about Clinton that you didn’t known when you wrote your last book together? Did she change in any meaningful way?
Parnes/Allen: We think she over-learned some of the lessons particularly with the over reliance on data at the expense of traditional political persuasion– a “Moneyball“-esque dynamic that our sources talked about in detail. She was fighting the last war.
We don’t think she changed in an meaningful way. She tried to change the decor but the architecture was mostly the same.
Cillizza: Who is, really, to blame for her losing? The candidate herself? Robby Mook? Someones(s) else? And, why?
Parnes/Allen: Our reporting led us to believe that she’s ultimately responsible for this. After all, she’s the candidate and this wasn’t her first rodeo. To the extent that Robby didn’t execute perfectly, she never really abandoned the one thing he was doing wrong. The corrective measure would have been to put someone else in who wasn’t so reliant on data and analytics. But she didn’t do that.
And it’s also worth noting that Robby Mook was dealing with a candidate who did an inexplicable thing with her email server and gave speeches to banks at a time of rising populism. And she refused to apologize for any of it for a long time.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign will be remembered as ___________.” Now, explain.
Parnes/Allen: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign will be remembered as a missed opportunity and a debacle that handed the presidency to Donald Trump, which left her supporters feeling shattered– at least in the short term.
But 25 years from now, women will learn about the woman who was able to win the Democratic nomination, a hurdle no one had ever achieved. At the end of the day, she’s the most accomplished woman of her trailblazing generation in the field of politics.