By the time Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle finally packed up her lovely corner office with its fresh blue carpet and mini-fridge full of Diet Coke, her exit must have come as a relief--even to many of her friends on Team Hillary. Since Iowa, colleagues had been conducting an uneasy deathwatch for her. New faces had begun popping up around Ballston (as Hillary HQ is called in honor of its suburban Virginia neighborhood), most notably Maggie Williams, Hillary's chief of staff from her First Lady days. Initially, the campaign insisted that Williams was there merely to back up Solis Doyle, but, almost immediately, staffers began turning to Williams to solve problems and approve projects. When the inevitable strain of having two people atop the organizational chart became untenable, few questioned who would be the last woman standing. On February 10, the Sunday after Super Tuesday, Solis Doyle was officially out.
Leadership change brings disruption. And no one knows how to exploit disruption better than Mark Penn, the message master of Team Hillary. Long disdainful of Solis Doyle, Penn saw her departure as an opportunity to consolidate his authority, say insiders. He started hanging out in her old office, which had been transformed into a conference room, and taking over meetings and in-house e-mail chains she once handled (occasionally bumping up against similar efforts by Williams). At the same time, Penn's colleagues from Burson-Marsteller, the p.r. giant of which he is chief executive, became more visible around HQ. "I think, post-Patti, he only got stronger," says one in-house observer. Williams may have been the new chief, but Penn had his own ideas about how things should run.