01/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rare Plouffe Interview: How Clinton Could Have Won

If he were less shy and had a funny accent, David Plouffe would be every bit the household name that James Carville is--perhaps even going on Oprah and taking cameo roles in Hollywood movies. Plouffe is, after all, "the unsung hero" of the "best political campaign in the history of the United States of America"--which is how Barack Obama described him before a global television audience, in the mother of all shout-outs, on the night he was elected Leader of the Free World.

At 41, Plouffe (rhymes with "no fluff") will probably never top his historic achievement of managing the campaign that gave this nation its first African-American commander in chief. The juggernaut Plouffe led, which grew to a payroll of 5,000 before Election Day, raised record amounts of cash from millions of small donors, defeated the once-invincible Hillary Clinton machine, and crushed the flailing Republican nominee, John McCain. Obama's success was so overwhelming that it's hard to remember those early days when the freshman senator from Illinois was the longest of long-shots and the darkest of dark horses in a country still troubled by issues of race.

But, as the press-averse Plouffe told Portfolio.com in an exclusive interview, Clinton might well have won the nomination if she had just competed in the far-flung caucus states that handed Obama his insurmountable delegate lead in February and March. "We woke up every day wondering, is today the day they're going to show up in Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington State?" Plouffe said. "And every day they didn't, that enabled us really to build up our strength there."

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