Read It Here First

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Oct 30, 2009 8:08pm

The Bottom Line has obtained a copy of the new book by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.   It won’t hit book stores until November 3rd, but here are ten revealing nuggets from “The Audacity to Win”:

1)  Biggest mea culpa:  Plouffe failed to research Obama
Rolling Stone had published some inflammatory quotes from Rev. Jeremiah Wright just before Obama was to announce he was running for president in Springfield, Illinois on February 10, 2007.  Wright was scheduled to deliver the invocation for the event, but was pulled out when the quotes surfaced.  Plouffe realized the campaign had a significant weakness. 

Plouffe writes, “ …we had done zero research on our own candidate beyond a small and incomplete package from the 2004 Senate race.  With this lapse, we were violating a central rule of politics – know more about yourself than your opponents and the media do.  Since we had not scrubbed every quote, vote, speech, and donor of Obama’s, we knew we’d be getting questions we couldn’t foresee, unless he remembered each incident and vote precisely, we’d be scrambling to mount a defense.”
Plouffe continued:

“The incident should have prompted an immediate scouring of the Reverend Wright and all he has said over the years….it’s worth noting that our systemic failure to deal with this issue properly started the day before Obama’s announcement.  I still kick myself for how terribly we mishandled our internal Wright work.”

2) The campaign was in denial about Rev. Wright:
By March 12, 2008, when ABC News began to air explosive excerpts from Rev. Wrights sermons, the campaign was in denial about the significance of the Rev. Wright problem.  Plouffe writes:

“We had…failed to discuss the various options we might explore vis-à-vis Wright.  We never raised with Obama the idea of leaving the church, or discussed with him any detail of how we would respond if inflammatory statements were to emerge.  We were in denial.  In any competitive enterprise, you need to know everything your opponent knows about you and limit the number of surprises by getting out damaging information about yourself before it can be used to sucker punch you.”

3) But they did test Oprah: 

“[Oprah’s] numbers among noncore caucus-goers and primary voters in the early states were even higher than among the general population.  We tested her thoroughly before deploying her.  We thought some high-profile campaigning with Oprah could reach some of these voters in a more compelling way than the traditional messengers and methods would.”

4) Obama hated campaigning:
By April 2007, Plouffe writes, Obama had become, “increasingly sullen” and on a  flight, Robert Gibbs had a heart-to-heart with Obama:

“Are you having any fun at all?,” he asked him. 

“None, “ Obama flatly replied.

“Do you see any way we can make it more fun?” Gibbs replied.


5) Edwards is as craven as you think: 
Sometime after the South Carolina debate Plouffe got a call from a senior Edwards Advisor who said Edwards was willing to announce the end of his campaign and join forces with Obama to defeat Clinton.  When Plouffe asked if he could raise this with Obama the Edwards advisor said,  “Yes.…Just to be clear we’re going to talk to the Clinton people too.  That’s not where John’s heart is, but he is at the point of maximum leverage now.” 

“Obama’s answer,” Plouffe writes, “was quick and firm:  he would cut no deals.”

6) Michelle Obama weighs-in on the race speech:
Concerned that the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia would not be the best setting for Obama’s speech on race, Michelle called Plouffe to voice her opinion.  Plouffe writes, “I think Barack needs to be in a bigger setting for the speech,” she told me.   “He needs to see supportive faces and to be boosted.” 

Plouffe convinced Michelle Obama that the venue matched the “sober” tone he believed the speech needed to have and she relented.

7) Post Rev. Wright:

A bitter Obama was worried that he had taken on too much water to win the general election.  Plouffe writes, “He had told me in the middle of the Wright episode during the Pennsylvania primary that he would end his candidacy if he honestly thought Hillary had a better chance of winning and that he really was damaged electoral goods.”

8) A glimpse of the future: 

Obama didn’t find his own campaign’s attacks on the McCain health care plan credible.
Plouffe writes, “We were ferociously attacking McCain’s health care plan, which had at its centerpiece a proposal to begin taxing workers’ health care benefits as income to generate money to cover the uninsured.” 

Obama was unhappy with strategy and told Plouffe, “I don’t think people will find the charge credible…and while I can make the case that it’s true, I think it puts too much spin on the ball.  Let’s just lay out his position without feeling the need to scare people with some grandiose political scorecard terminology.”

Obama is now, of course, facing critics who say his health care plan contains a similar tax. 

9) Plouffe plays hardball and Obama balks
Plouffe writes that he green-lighted a documentary about Senator McCain’s association with Charles Keating during the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s.  Obama was angry when he learned from watching television that the campaign was releasing the film.  Obama took Plouffe and Axelrod aside and asked, “Why wasn’t I consulted?”   Plouffe tried to explain, but, as he writes, “Obama cut me off.  “This is not a run-of-the-mill ad.  This is a big bomb.  And I should have made the final decision on whether to use it and when.”  He was clearly frustrated”

10) Election Night 60 Minutes Interview =  Miller time
Plouffe reveals that during their 1:00 am 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, he and Axelrod had filled their coffee cups with beer.  “It could not have tasted better,” Plouffe writes.

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