The former president finally had enough: "Sources told Newsday that the Colombia story was the last straw for Bill Clinton, a longtime Penn defender who had for months resisted calls to replace the pollster after a series of embarrassing episodes and questionable advice," Newsday's Glenn Thrush writes.
But will it matter to Big Labor that the campaign is keeping Penn in its orbit, for polling and advice? James Hoffa answers no: "Title demotion doesn't indicate loss of influence," a Hoffa spokeswoman, Leigh Strope, tells the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein.
"He really should have been fired," one Clinton aide tells the Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey.
At the very least, few of the remaining staffers are likely to be broken up over this. "Penn, a sometimes rumpled and often argumentative figure, struggled from the start with the awkward management structure of the Clinton campaign," Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post.
"Tensions escalated with each of her defeats: Some complained that he was too data-driven and obstinate, and he was blamed for the failure to 'humanize' the candidate in the early days of the race."
"As the Democratic contest reaches a climax, at least morale inside the Clinton bunker will soar," the New York Daily News' Thomas DeFrank reports. "The pollster who demanded the title of chief campaign strategist ran a high-powered public relations firm on the side, but needed a personal PR guy himself. His arrogant, peremptory style made him widely reviled in senior levels of the Clinton campaign."
Yet even beyond Penn, in this final two weeks before Pennsylvania (finally) votes, Clinton is forcing herself to play defense.
There was the Bosnia embellishment, and now there's this line from Clinton: "I actually starting criticizing the war in Iraq before he did," she said Saturday on the trail. Writes ABC's Jake Tapper, "The misrepresentation of the record is symbolic of the re-writing of history Clinton has attempted on her record regarding the war in Iraq."
That gasp-inducing story about the woman who died because she couldn't afford the $100 hospital fee? Maybe not exactly. "Hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured," Deborah Sontag reported Saturday in The New York Times.
And how does this play among the only audience that counts anymore? (Keep in mind that demonstrably more than half of Democrats who have weighed in so far have done so on behalf of Obama.)
There's nothing like a casual comparison between Obama and President Bush to get ears to perk up. "He gave a lot of speeches about how he was going to be a compassionate conservative," Clinton said of candidate Bush in Oregon, per ABC's Eloise Harper.
"Well, because we didn't have the specifics to tie him down because we didn't say 'What exactly does that mean?' It turns out he was neither compassionate nor conservative. He was uncompassionate and radical."
Maybe this is fair play, but maybe it turns off as many as it convinces. "Sen. Hillary Clinton made a blunt appeal to North Dakota delegates to switch their support to her, despite the fact that Sen. Barack Obama handily defeated her in the state's caucus in February," ABC's Eloise Harper and Sunlen Miller report.