By Anne E. Kornblut and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton shook up her presidential campaign yesterday, replacing campaign manager and longtime aide Patti Solis Doyle with Maggie Williams, her former White House chief of staff, in an acknowledgment of the unexpectedly difficult struggle in which she finds herself against Sen. Barack Obama.
The move came on a day when Obama easily won the Maine caucuses, completing a decisive weekend sweep of Democratic contests in four states that gave the senator from Illinois renewed momentum heading into tomorrow's contests in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
The change at the top of the Clinton campaign has been talked about since last month's Iowa caucuses, in which the senator from New York placed third and immediately lost her front-runner status. Still, it came as a surprise to even some senior advisers.
After mounting tensions inside the campaign, fueled by repeated defeats, financial difficulties, inconclusive results on Super Tuesday and Saturday's coast-to-coast trouncing, Doyle told the staff yesterday that she will step aside.
"Patti Solis Doyle has done an extraordinary job in getting us to this point -- within reach of the nomination -- and I am enormously grateful for her friendship and her outstanding work," Clinton said in a statement.
Clinton, effectively tied with Obama in delegates and facing difficult races the rest of this month, is looking to gain any possible advantage to slow her rival's momentum until March 4, when the campaign reaches what her aides believe will be friendlier territory in the Ohio and Texas primaries.
On Thursday, she made an unannounced trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., to seek an endorsement from former senator John Edwards, who gave up his presidential bid last month. Obama is scheduled to meet with Edwards on a similar mission tonight. Yesterday's move by Clinton came after a week in which she revealed that she had lent her cash-strapped campaign $5 million last month.
The removal of Doyle, 42, was portrayed as an amicable one initiated by the campaign manager herself. But it gave credence to what some supporters have said for many weeks -- that the campaign had spent too much money yielding too few results and that fresh management and advice are needed for what could be a long battle against Obama. Doyle did not tell Clinton how rapidly the campaign was burning through money, according to one campaign official, who said Clinton learned about her financial constraints only after the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8.
Doyle told friends that she long ago had assumed that the Super Tuesday primaries would decide the nomination and that she would then seek a different role. By some accounts, the campaign's January cash crunch undermined her role as manager, and there were tensions with former president Bill Clinton and some of his loyalists.
One senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about the campaign's inner workings, said, "The dissatisfaction -- to the extent there has been -- has not been about money." Asked what the source of dissatisfaction was, this adviser replied, "There is a sense that this is a fatiguing campaign and some new energy primarily was useful."
On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, it appeared that Clinton was ready to replace Doyle and make other changes, but some Clinton loyalists said yesterday that the senator's unexpected victory forestalled widespread changes.
After her win there, the campaign began to expand, with advisers from the Clinton White House and from the Clintons' vast political network recruited to join the campaign's tight inner circle.
Williams arrived on what she told friends would be a 30-day assignment to help oversee operations and review the campaign's management. She did not displace Doyle but there was, according to one account, tension between the two.
By one account, Williams decided early last week to return to her consulting firm, her temporary assignment over. By another, she announced that she was leaving to send a signal to Clinton that the dual management structure was untenable.
Another senior adviser said the replacement represents a major shift in the dynamics of the campaign, putting much more power into the hands of the campaign manager than Doyle had enjoyed.
Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000, said Williams, like Doyle, knows the candidate well and has her full trust. "Maggie's tough," she said. "She knows more than how to make the trains run on time. She knows how to break some heads."
Doyle, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, was the highest-ranking Hispanic in a campaign that has come to rely on Hispanic voters to win crucial states such as California and Arizona. Whether her departure will cost Clinton among this vital constituency is a critical question.
Doyle said in a departing note that she intends to remain on as a senior adviser, and one official said she plans to travel occasionally with the candidate. Her brother Danny Solis, a Chicago alderman who volunteered for Clinton, said in a recent telephone interview that his sister's life in the campaign has been "a struggle." "She spends a lot of time as a referee," he said. "And she takes a lot of the punches."
The campaign long has had a very tight inner circle of Doyle, chief strategist Mark Penn, communications director Howard Wolfson, media adviser Mandy Grunwald and policy director Neera Tanden. Harold Ickes, former White House deputy chief of staff, has played an increasingly important role.
Since New Hampshire, others have been brought in to help. That group includes Doug Sosnik, former White House political director; Steve Richetti, who served as congressional liaison in the Clinton White House; and Linda Moore Forbes, who also served in the Clinton White House and who is helping nail down endorsements from superdelegates to the national convention.
Doug Hattaway, a veteran of the Gore campaign, has joined Clinton's communications operation. Roy Spence, a longtime friend of both the senator and the former president, has been offering advice on messaging and will play a lead role in overseeing the Texas campaign.
But for all the efforts to expand the operation, Democratic strategists said the Clinton campaign remains opaque, even to those on the outside willing to be helpful. "They have more walls around them than you've seen in many castles," said one prominent Democrat.
Advisers to the candidates and to Edwards were reluctant to talk about the intense courtship underway. Edwards had harsh words for Clinton during many debates but is said to be torn about a possible endorsement. The meeting between Edwards and Clinton was described as substantive and friendly.
Clinton's loss in Maine was not a total surprise to her team, though she had been leading in some polls. The candidate tried to look past her weekend defeats in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington state, never mentioning them in her speech at a Democratic Party event in Richmond on Saturday night, nor during her Virginia stop yesterday. Her strategists have said they are pessimistic about how she will do in the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia contests.
Staff writer Peter Slevin contributed to this report.