POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Post-Iowa Blame Game Begins In Clinton Camp

Clinton advisers said Friday that they would not mount a negative advertising campaign against Mr. Obama in New Hampshire, saying the primary was too soon for such an onslaught to have any effect. And they said there were no plans to bring in new senior advisers to help right her campaign.

Yet no sooner had Mrs. Clinton finished her concession speech in Iowa on Thursday than second-guessing set in among her supporters.

One longtime adviser complained that the campaign's senior strategist, Mark Penn, realized too late that "change" was a much more powerful message than "experience." Another adviser said Mr. Penn and Mr. Clinton were consumed with polling data for so long, they did not fully grasp the personality deficit that Mrs. Clinton had with voters.

Advisers said that both Clintons had miscalculated the endurance and depth of what they called "the Obama phenomenon." They both believed that, in the final months of 2007, more voters would question whether Mr. Obama was ready to be president and more reporters would pick apart his political record and personal character. Now anger inside the campaign at the news media has hardened; Mr. Clinton, in particular, believes reporters will be complicit if Mr. Obama becomes the nominee and loses to a Republican.

Mr. Clinton's role in the campaign has also become fodder for debate in her camp. Some advisers laud him as a vote-getter and crowd-builder bar none, and Mrs. Clinton's best character witness. But others increasingly look at him with a jaundiced eye, saying that some of his off-message remarks have proved a distraction, and that his looming presence has undercut her promises to make a break with the politics of the past.

Mr. Clinton seemed tired, almost downbeat as he worked his way through two 45-minute speeches in New Hampshire on Friday. He focused on Mrs. Clinton's record of service and her qualifications for the presidency.

He never mentioned Mr. Obama's name, but he seemed to draw a contrast between what he called her 36 years of public service and Mr. Obama's relatively limited depth of experience, the very themes that did not succeed for the Clintons in Iowa.

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