Harold Ickes definitely doesn’t buy the argument that Mark Penn isn’t responsible for everything that has happened to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“Mark Penn has run this campaign,” said Ickes in a brief phone interview this morning. “Besides Hillary Clinton, he is the single most responsible person for this campaign.
“Now, he has been circumscribed to some extent by Maggie Williams,” said Ickes, who then pointed out that that was only a recent development.
When asked about the assertion by one senior Clinton official the campaign was effectively run by committee, diluting Penn’s authority, Ickes was incredulous.
“I don’t know what campaign you’re talking about,” said Ickes. “I have been at meetings where he introduces himself as the campaign’s chief strategist. I’ve heard him call himself that many times, say, ‘I am the chief strategist.’”
Asked if Penn preferred the title of chief strategist to pollster, Ickes said, “Prefer it? He insists on it!”
When asked if Penn was therefore responsible for the campaign’s strategy, Ickes said, “It’s pretty plain for anyone to see that he has shaped the strategy of the campaign. He has called the shots.”
“Mark Penn,” he said, “has dominated the message in this campaign. Dominated it.”
Ickes also took umbrage at the suggestion of one Clinton campaign official that he had mismanaged the campaign’s money and deprived Clinton the resources to compete in states after February 5.
“We invested a huge amount of money in February 5 states,” said Ickes, arguing that anyone who suggested he had wasted the campaign’s money was “talking with no knowledge.”
“I don’t know what they’re basing this statement on but they have not one fact to stand on,” he said.
The chief responsibility entrusted to Ickes now is wrangling superdelegates for Clinton, or at least persuading them not to commit until after the March 4 contests in Texas and Ohio.
Here’s the case he’s been making: “Mr. Obama has just become the frontrunner. He has not been subjected to any real degree of scrutiny by the press.”
Then, he says, he tells superdelegates that “we have an obligation” to wait and pick the best candidate for the Democratic Party. “We can’t nominate a candidate who can’t withstand the withering attacks of the Republicans.”
Asked about the defection of superdelegate and civil rights icon John Lewis to Obama, Ickes said, “You never like to lose a supporter. John Lewis is a great American hero.”
But, he added, “He is one vote. He doesn’t have many votes.”