The day after the campaign announced Penn’s titular demotion, it is not clear yet exactly what influence he has lost.
Marc Ambinder reported that Penn participated this morning on an internal campaign conference call, suggesting the highly plausible possibility that his loss of the right to be called “chief strategist” was more about cauterizing the Colombia mess than empowering Howard Wolfson and Geoff Garin to cut him out of the decision-making loop.
One campaign staffer I talked to who, like most Clinton campaign staffers, may be said to come from the anti-Penn camp, insisted that Penn had indeed lost juice, and noted that Hillary was not on the conference call this morning. Other staffers explained that the real significance of Penn’s apparent demotion was not that he would disappear completely, but that he had lost his all-important veto power over ideas regarding message and strategy.
“Every little ad and direct mail and radio spot and speech had to have Mark’s approval on it — he could look at everything he wanted,” said one. “That’s no longer the case.”