MRS. CLINTON GOES TO WASHINGTON T H E | S T O R Y | O F | H I L L A R Y ' S | 2 0 0 4 | C A M P A I G N She sat in her office in Washington. The day was February 1, 2003 and Hillary Rodham Clinton was completely unsatisfied with the Democrats running to replace George W. Bush. For the last several months she’d been consulting with her husband and several Democratic Party insiders about the possibility of a formal candidacy for the Presidency. Some said that she would be attacked for her inexperience, but Clinton reminded them that in her time as Senator she’d made great strides in the areas of bipartisanship and as First Lady she led a charge no one else would: Universal Health Care. Clinton called Patti Doyle, her longtime campaign manager, and asked if she would run the campaign. Doyle agreed and Clinton’s next call, Terry McAuliffe, was more than enthusiastic about the prospect of another Clinton for President Campaign. The decision was made on February 1st that Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for President. Five days later on the steps of the New York State House, Hillary Clinton declared she was a candidate for President of the United States. The events set in motion by her announcement were never anticipated by anyone. With Mark Penn as the Chief Strategist, Patti Doyle working as the campaign manager, and several others in Clinton’s inner-circle hard at work the campaign was off to a great start. Early polls showed them in third, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt. Hillary’s early strategy was simple, camp out in Iowa and gain enough support there to move on to key states. For much of February, March, and April Clinton’s campaign was focused on Iowa, Iowa, and more Iowa. The strategy enabled her to build up a comfortable lead in the state. While doing this the campaign had focused on using the internet to their advantage. Their website was well-equipped and Hillary’s GOTV routine was very effective. As she moved on to New Hampshire, Clinton fought hard to make up for lost ground in the state. As late-April approached Clinton was leading in fundraising and endorsements with several high-profile politicians (past and present) lined up behind Hillary. From Geraldine Ferraro to Dianne Feinstein, prominent female leaders were very supportive of Clinton and her efforts. As Clinton began to rise in the polls John Kerry’s campaign fell as they appealed to similar demographics. Clinton’s popularity with blue collar voters and rank-and-file Democrats surged her to first place nationally by early-May. Though her lead was small there was no one who could deny that she was the candidate to beat. However the Clinton staff began to worry. The campaign didn’t have something they could really hammer home with the voters. Sure, you had Bill and Hillary running around and campaigning, but Dean was easily identifiable as the Anti-War candidate. Kerry was a war hero. Edwards was the “pretty boy”, but for Clinton there wasn’t an image to hammer in to the minds of voters. At a campaign strategy meeting in May the inner-circle locked themselves in a room and debate the future of the campaign, especially the message they wanted to put out. Doyle and Penn were united on the issue of Health Care. Though it was a failure the fact that Hillary had put herself on the line to advocate it may have been something she could use to her advantage, the problem was condensing that message. When the suggestion of “fighting the fight” came up it was quickly shot-down because of the similarity to Kerry’s war hero message. The team debated and after a few hours they decided the message: “Because you matter and she cares!” The slogan was short and showed that Clinton was prepared to keep her promises made to the General Electorate; something both Kerry and Dean had hit Clinton for already in this stage of the campaign. The next topic for debate was whether or not to go negative, but Penn replied, “You obliterate them at the end of the race; right now no one could care less about the race.” With Clinton’s campaign in full force they continued to gain ground, expanding their lead on the rest of the Democratic field. Throughout much of May Clinton was forced to brush-off her previous comments about serving at least a full term in the U.S. Senate. Her response was weak, but the more she said it the more she worked. The response, “I did not realize our country would turn in to such a staggering downturn in such a short amount of time”, was the beginning signs of mudslinging in the campaign. For the most part the Democrats hadn’t seemed that critical of Bush, largely because he was not an unpopular candidate, but Clinton’s entry changed much of that. She was willing to go toe-to-toe with Bush and invited him to defend his own ideas. Clinton did something very smart: she treated her campaign as though she was already the nominee and moved forward to attacks on Republicans. The Bush Campaign was definitely fearful of Clinton. They hoped that Kerry would be the nominee as they viewed him as weak and too “average” and “uninspiring” to win in the general electorate. By the end of May 2003 Clinton was at 35% in the polls while her nearest opponent, Dean, was polling at 19%. With June approaching the candidates shifted focus to winning the “MoveOn.org Primary” though it promised no delegates, the vote held immense symbolic value. Clinton used her website, reaching millions of hits a day, to remind supporters and volunteers to get out and vote in the online primary. Her GOTV strategy paid off and she beat Howard Dean by 400 votes. In third place was Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. In the first primary debate, held that month, Clinton was attacked for her promise in the Senate but her response proved effective and she hit Lieberman as being too moderate to represent the Democratic Primary. Eventually Clinton’s debate performance, though it wasn’t stellar, is credited with halting Lieberman’s momentum in the race and he quickly fell off the map, allowing Kerry to reemerge as a serious candidate for the nomination. Clinton’s rising prominence within the Democratic campaign forced Bush’s reelection campaign to make a hard decision. Earlier that month Dick Cheney had offered to step aside as the running mate in 2004 and Bush had declined, but now everyone, including Cheney, told Bush to abandon him in order to find a more attractive running mate – someone who could take the election’s focus off of Hillary and back onto the Republican Party. Bush finally accepted Cheney’s retirement and the campaign silently began work on selecting a new nominee to fill the spot. Bill Frist was an early favorite among both Bush and Campaign Staffers, but they agreed to continue looking. The campaign also began rallying around Rudy Giuliani, known as America’s Mayor for his effective leadership post-9/11. Bush worried the pick would appear too political and quickly vetoed any hopes of a Bush/Giuliani ticket. Soon a short list of nearly 10 names was formed and the campaign began to vet all of them. They decided that in January 200 4 Cheney would announce his retirement and the next running mate would be revealed. The hope was that Clinton would win Iowa and New Hampshire in January and a new running mate on the Republican side would prevent the media from focusing on the historic wins on the Democratic side. With the Republicans deciding on a new ticket, the Democrats continued to push through during most of June with the candidates holding a combined total of 304 town halls, speeches, and interviews. The month was one of the busiest for campaigning as it was the first month where more than 35% of the party said they were paying attention to the primaries. Candidates hoped to posture themselves as the front runner and to put a dent in Clinton’s armor and stardom. Her campaign continued in full force with Clinton in a primetime or morning interview almost every day of the month. Furthermore their website proved to be a huge advantage. Historians today agree that Clinton’s effective use of a campaign website was really the beginning of the link between internet and campaigning. Every Friday Clinton would sit on her living room couch and brief volunteers about the progress her campaign had made over the week. The strategy worked and kept volunteers and supporters engaged in the primary process, it was becoming clear that Hillary Rodham Clinton was unbeatable in her quest for the 2004 Democratic Nomination.