Irritated Democrats say Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGOP hopes data investment will boost midterm odds Trump cements ‘America First’ doctrine with Paris withdrawal DNC allies incensed by Clinton criticism MORE is wrong to cast blame on the national party for her loss to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP hopes data investment will boost midterm odds DNC allies incensed by Clinton criticism White House may have broke ethics rule with retroactive waiver: report MORE.
Allies of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in particular were incensed by Clinton’s criticism of the party apparatus, saying she mischaracterized the committee’s work while needlessly stoking internal divisions.
“This is all about the last campaign. And really, what Democrats should be focusing on, and what I think Hillary Clinton should be figuring out, is how do we empower the DNC to have the best data resources to win races this year, in 2018 and 2020,” a former DNC aide said.
“Having hard feelings about the data that you may or may not have received in 2016 ultimately is not the reason why we lost.”
Clinton surprised Democrats on Wednesday when she complained that she inherited “nothing” from a “bankrupt” DNC after becoming the nominee.
She faulted the committee, which some saw as favoring her during the tough primary fight against Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump cements ‘America First’ doctrine with Paris withdrawal DNC allies incensed by Clinton criticism Sanders: Withdrawing from Paris deal an ‘international disgrace’ MORE (I-Vt.), as having “mediocre to poor, non-existent, wrong” data operation. The remarks were also seen as a rebuke of President Obama, who chose the leaders of the DNC during his tenure.
Andrew Therriault, who served as the DNC’s director of data science until last June, said Clinton’s claims were “f—ing bulls—” in a series of tweets that have since been deleted.
Therriault accused Clinton’s team of ignoring DNC data that warned of a close race in the three states that, by narrow margins, ultimately handed Trump his Electoral College victory: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
“All that said, irony of her bashing DNC data: *our* models never had mi/wi/pa looking even close to safe. Her team thought they knew better,” Therriault wrote.
Clinton made several appearances in Pennsylvania in the final months of the campaign, including on the eve of the election. But she spent little time campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which flipped to the GOP column for the first time in decades.
A source close to the Clinton campaign downplayed Therriault’s knowledge of DNC data on the three key states given his departure prior to the general election season, but said Clinton and her aides shouldn’t have relied so much on data in the first place.
“The campaign should look internally at its own data problems. It’s one of the reasons she lost. They were over-reliant on data analytics,” the source said.
John Hagner, a Democratic consultant who tapped the same DNC database while working on congressional and gubernatorial races last cycle, said Clinton misfired in criticizing the data in lieu of the campaign operatives entrusted to use it effectively.
The data are merely the “raw ingredients,” he said, while the targeting operation is “the chef that decides what to do with them.” The chef, in this case, was Clinton’s campaign team.
“Roy Cooper used the same data in North Carolina and won,” Hagner said Thursday by phone, referring to the state’s newly elected Democratic governor. “So it’s not that the data didn’t work, it’s that you have to make different decisions with it.
“Singling out the DNC, which does the best that they can do with a system that’s hard to work with, blaming them and not the decisions that got made with that data — which is definitely her campaign’s responsibility — just seemed really off-key.”
Hagner, a partner at Clarity Campaign and a strong Clinton supporter, said the comments about the DNC don’t help the political fortunes of the Democrats, who are hoping their opposition to the Trump White House will deliver victories at the polls in 2018.
“It’s for the good of the party that we all turn the page and focus on the future,” he said.
Tom Bonier, the CEO of TargetSmart, a data firm that works with many Democratic clients, defended the DNC’s 2016 efforts as “the most robust data operation the DNC has ever seen.”
Bonier also noted in a series of tweets that, “the Clinton team was using DNC data throughout the primary. If it was that bad, they knew that for 2 yrs but did nothing.”
Clinton has previously cited factors like former FBI Director James Comey’s late October letter to Congress about the investigation of her use of a private email server while Secretary of State and prevailing sexism as reasons that contributed to her loss. But Wednesday was the first time she publicly castigated the DNC.
“I’m now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party,” Clinton said. “It was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, non-existent, wrong. I had to inject money into it — the DNC — to keep it going.”
Clinton said Trump had better resources from the DNC’s equivalent, the Republican National Committee.
“So Trump becomes the nominee and he is basically handed this tried and true, effective foundation,” Clinton said.
The RNC quickly sought to capitalize on the Democratic rift. Its communications team fired off three press releases to reporters highlighting Clinton’s comments, with subject lines like “We Finally Agree With Hillary” and “After Yesterday, Dems Must Want Hillary To Go Back To The Woods.”
RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel appeared on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning to tout the RNC’s infrastructure.
“We see it. We see it every day. We are on the ground in all these states. The RNC is far superior in terms of data and ground game. We retooled after 2012 and we’re going to continue to do that,” McDaniel said.
The DNC, for its part, tried not to pick a fight with Clinton or her sympathizers.
The committee cited recently minted Chairman Tom Perez’s efforts to revitalize the DNC’s organizational infrastructure, like installing a new chief technology officer and a chief information security officer.
“Tom has said before that the DNC was not firing on all cylinders and that’s why he did a top-to-bottom review that included technology,” DNC spokesman Michael Tyler said.
“Tom is already deeply engaged with the outpouring of support from Democrats across the country, from Silicon Valley to suburban Georgia, who want to help improve the data and tech, get it in the hands of more organizers everywhere, and build the grassroots funding stream required to support those efforts.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who chaired the DNC until she resigned last summer, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Wasserman Schultz has generally refrained from commenting on anything related to the DNC since her resignation, which came in the wake of leaked emails that showed her and top aides disparaging Sanders’s campaign during the Democratic primary.
Clinton has been making a series of public appearances in recent weeks, including Wednesday’s event and a commencement address last week at her alma mater, Wellesley College.
But some Democrats wonder how helpful it is for Clinton to keep grabbing the spotlight and relitigating the election as the party looks for new leadership.
“It’s always healthy whether you win or lose to do some introspection on what went right and what went wrong. That’s fine,” the former DNC aide said. “It may be cathartic. But it doesn’t help the party win races.”
Mike Lillis and Amie Parnes contributed.