02:01 - Source: CNN
Clinton: What went right, wrong in 2016
Washington CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton’s recounting of the 2016 campaign – “What Happened” – is out today. I reached out to The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen – the authors of two bestselling books (here and here) about Clinton – for some perspective about why Clinton decided to write about her latest loss and how accurate her assessment of, well, what happened, actually is. Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.

Cillizza: Why did Hillary Clinton write this book? Was this about correcting the record, catharsis or something in between?

Parnes/Allen: We think it was something in between. There was much said about her and her campaign in the weeks and months after the campaign and this was her way of telling her version of accounts. If you read the book, as we both have, she was also annoyed by lots of people in her own party and even those who have been telling her to go away. There’s a page or two in the book she actually talks about this. We’ve heard from those folks, too, particularly some folks in Obamaworld who have said she’s pulling the party backward at a time when it’s trying to rebuild.

But as she says in the book, she has a right to explain what she thinks happened. We think it’s also cathartic in many ways for her. She says the days have gotten better for her since that surprise loss on election night but you can see her still working things out in her mind through the words in this book. The book was also somewhat liberating for her. It’s pretty revealing and open – for her.

Cillizza: I was struck by how much blame Clinton lays at the feet of Bernie Sanders for her loss. Did you guys get that sense in your own reporting on 2016?

Parnes/Allen: Yes, we made it pretty clear in our book that Bernie Sanders was definitely a factor. He kept hitting her at quite possibly the worst possible time during the campaign – at the end of the primaries when Donald Trump was calling her “Crooked Hillary.” At the same time, you had Sanders telling his supporters that she’s in the pocket of the big banks and wasn’t looking out for them. And they believed him and we say this because they never ever came home and supported her.

Even after Sanders made the endorsement for her, it was also pretty clear to many people that he didn’t 100% believe it. As we detail in “Shattered,” he was cutting an ad for her and he was skimming the text of it and when he got to the part where he would have to say, “I’m with her,” he paused and said, “I can’t say that. It’s so phony.” That spoke volumes.

To this day, we talk to Bernie supporters who still don’t trust Hillary Clinton and they stand by their decision to stay home or vote third party.

Cillizza: Clinton seems absolutely convinced James Comey and Russian interference cost her the election. Based on your reporting is that right? Or is it something of a crutch to absolve her of blame?

Parnes/Allen: We have always said that Comey and Russia were factors but they weren’t the only factors. She also lacked a message and message discipline – something she acknowledges that even President Obama was highlighting to her behind the scenes. Her use of a private server and email was a major factor and her inability to get out in front of it. (Comey never would have been a factor had she never used private email.)

Other factors: the campaign relied heavily on data analytics and they relied too much on the science to drive their decisions on where to send her. There were clear deficiencies in Michigan (a state she also lost in the primary) and in Wisconsin and they never did traditional polling there in the final weeks. She also failed to run a full persuasion campaign because it was too expensive. Oh and also, another self inflicted wound, the Wall Street speeches. It made Sanders’ point for him.

Cillizza: Clinton says she will never be a candidate again. Do you believe her? Why or why not?

Parnes/Allen: Yes. She doesn’t have it in her to run again. This election wiped her out. She had to be convinced to run this time around because there were plenty of top advisers telling her not to do it. She doesn’t want to put herself through all of this again. She’s done. We believe her.

We also think it’s clear that she won’t run again mainly because the party seems to be moving away from her. Yes, everyone acknowledges that she won and won big in the popular vote. But there’s a craving for fresh blood in the party right now and the search is on right now to find that person. We both think that the next candidate will be someone like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, someone who came out of nowhere.

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “If you ask Hillary Clinton ‘what happened,’ her one-word response would be ___________.” Now, explain.

Parnes/Allen: “Email.”

She thinks the email scandal ultimately doomed her and she’s right. It had an impact. But as we said before, Comey never would have been in the picture had she never used a private email. Throughout the election, even Democrats who supported her thought it was the biggest mistake. They were always waiting for the other shoe to drop.