Breaking News: Mark Penn out as Clinton chief strategist
In a simple, short and not-so sweet message, Hillary Clinton's campaign announced minutes ago that Mark Penn was out as her chief political strategist.
The announcement came in a brief statement from Maggie Williams, the campaign's new manager, who replaced Patti Solis Doyle in a previous shakeup this winter.
It was the latest sign of severe internal trouble in Clinton's trailing effort to catch Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in fundraising, delegates and popular votes. It could not come at a worse time as both campaigns make their final runs at the crucial Pennsylvania primary on April 22.
Clinton has seen her once-commanding lead in the Keystone State shrink in recent days as Obama recovered from the embarrassing Rev. Jeremiah Wright racial jeremiads.
Obama raised twice as much money as she did last month.
And Obama's strategy is to spend heavily on TV advertising in Pennsylvania -- some estimates put it at five times her ad spending -- to cut into her lead with his abundant funds and to....
force Clinton to spend her more limited resources there, which means she won't have them for North Carolina, Indiana and elsewhere later.
To complicate matters, the brusque Penn has not made many friends within the close-mouthed Clinton campaign. In a profile in The Times earlier this winter he appeared to distance himself and minimize his role from what seemed then to be a failing campaign.
And this week he was involved in an embarrassing conflict of interest when he met with the ambassador of Colombia representing his public relations agency, which had been hired to promote a trade pact with the United States.
But Penn's other client, Clinton, opposes the pact. And she thought he had recused himself from all possible conflicts with her campaign and was reportedly furious. So Friday he apologized for the "error in judgment that will not be repeated." On Saturday Colombia fired his PR agency, the same day some anti-trade pact unions began calling for his resignation.
Now Penn is gone, from all appearances not willingly despite the announcement's phrasing.
Here is Williams' statement in its entirety:
"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as Chief Strategist of the Clinton Campaign; Mark, and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. will continue to provide polling and advice to the campaign. Geoff Garin and Howard Wolfson will coordinate the campaign's strategic message team going forward."
Photo Credit: Horowitz