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Surviving The Free Fall

Chicago native Patti Solis Doyle will be chief of staff to whoever becomes Barack Obama's running mate.
Chicago native Patti Solis Doyle will be chief of staff to whoever becomes Barack Obama's running mate. (By Charles Rex Arbogast -- Associated Press)
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"Look, a number of people in Hillaryland felt that they had something to offer . . . and if Patti didn't give them the back of her hand, she ignored them. They were [ticked] off," says a source who played a role in the campaign. The problem, says this same source, was that given Solis Doyle's relationship with Clinton, no one felt empowered to go around her and complain.

Among those she alienated at one time or another were Capricia Marshall, the matron of honor at Solis Doyle's wedding; Evelyn Lieberman, the former White House deputy chief of staff; and lawyer Cheryl Mills, who argued Bill Clinton's case at Senate impeachment hearings. One example of Solis Doyle's behavior cited by numerous sources occurred the night of the Iowa caucuses. After Clinton lost, Mills took it upon herself to talk to the devastated young volunteers and staff -- and was stunned when Solis Doyle upbraided her, telling her it wasn't her place. All three women, charter members of Hillaryland, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Solis Doyle says that as a manager, she had to make some hard decisions that transcended friendships.

One of her bigger errors may have been her inability to manage Bill Clinton. Sources close to the former president say Solis Doyle dragged her feet on returning his calls. She adamantly denies this. However, when Bill Clinton visited his wife's Des Moines headquarters a few days before the Iowa caucuses, Solis Doyle stayed inside her office for nearly an hour; finally, the former president came over to chat with her before he left. Solis Doyle says she had no clue that the former president and others read her actions as a snub. "For that I am obviously very sorry," she says.

Finally, she is asked if she has tried to reach out to her old friends in an effort to smooth ruffled feathers. She says that she fully intends to do so when the presidential campaign is over but that there hasn't been much opportunity because everyone has been busy and relations have been awkward. She says with confidence that she believes one day she and Clinton will have a rapprochement. "I'm extraordinarily hopeful and optimistic that our relationship with be intact," she says.

"I love Hillary Clinton. She played a huge part if my life for many years. . . . She read at my wedding, she was there for the birth of my children. She is a part of my family."

Solis Doyle e-mailed Clinton to let her know she was going to work for Obama, and Clinton wrote back wishing her well, confirm sources close to the senator.

But as far as patching things up? It's anybody's guess.

Research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

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