Updated from 1:39 p.m. EDT
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) Saturday ended her historic run to become the 44th President of the United States. Speaking in Washington, D.C. before cheering supporters, the former first lady acknowledged and unconditionally endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) as the Democratic Party's nominee.
Clinton's announcement brings to a close a tight, bruising race in which both Democratic candidates traded sharp jabs.
"The way to continue our fight now to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our energy and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States," Clinton was quoted saying by the
. "Today as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary campaign he has won."
What happened with Clinton's campaign?
Clinton started the race as the favorite. Despite falling short of her goal to win the presidency, she accomplished the following significant milestones:
- Clinton was the first woman to have a credible chance for victory, unlike her predecessors, who include Victoria Woodhill (1876), Belva Ann Lockwood (1884), Shirley Chisholm (1972) and Elizabeth Dole (2004).
- Clinton became the first woman ever to win a presidential primary. She began by winning an upset in New Hampshire on Jan. 8 and won another 20 other primaries along with a caucus in Nevada.
- Clinton received the most votes ever in a primary race, 17,802,105 according to ABC News, surpassing Obama by 300,000 votes. Those totals account for Florida and Michigan, which the party's rules committee recognized on May 31. Complete counts will never be known due to poor counts in caucus states, which also happen to exclude voters unable to commit the time necessary to participate in the caucuses.
- Clinton had the most female staffers of any of the major campaigns, according to a study by The Huffington Post's Off the Bus Project. Eight of Clinton's 14 senior campaing workers were women, as were 12 out of 20 of her top paid staff members. Obama had fewer women in positions of power: Three of 12 senior staff members and five of 20 top paid staffers.
- Clinton demonstrated that a female candidate could be taken seriously as a commander in chief. Pundits criticized her strategy that stressed experience over change, yet it defused any idea she couldn't be commander in chief.
The positives remain notable. Clinton's campaign errors, however, cost her and contributed to her loss.
- The campaign mishandled Clinton's early front-runner status. It made several mistakes in this regard, but its response to an NBC-hosted debate on Oct. 30 probably was the watershed moment. The debate's moderators, Tim Russert and Brian Williams, hammered Clinton with negative questions, and her opponents relentlessly railed on her throughout the evening. It was ugly. Afterwards, the campaign issued an ad called Pile on, which showed staccato clips of her male opponents attacking her again and again. But the ad backfired badly. Before the spot aired, the media had adopted a moderately negative stance toward Clinton but had bought into the notion that her nomination was inevitable. After the ad, however, the media turned on Clinton. It was as if reporters and commentators had special rules that pertained to Clinton and not to Obama. Many pundits accused her of playing the gender card in the ad.
- Two months later, Obama accused Clinton of downplaying Martin Luther King Jr.'s role in the civil rights movement before the South Carolina primary. The media ignored the incendiary nature of Obama's assignation and claimed Clinton had played the race card. Yes, the media followed the Clinton rules again. (For a full list of these "rules," read eRiposte at theleftcoaster.com.)
- Many of the struggles could be traced to Clinton's initial campaign manager, Patti Solis-Doyle, who had virtually no experience running a national campaign. And it showed. The campaign organized for a general election run, not a primary. Solis-Doyle failed to inform Clinton of money woes for the primaries being held on Super Tuesday, following the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. The campaign's cash on hand was earmarked for the general election. This forced Clinton to lend her own money to her campaign to keep up with Obama and delayed the campaign's ability to tap small donors.
- Worse, Clinton's team underestimated Obama's chances and didn't have a strategy for after Super Tuesday. The Clinton campaign assumed big wins in Democratic-stronghold states early on would clinch the nomination. But with Florida and Michigan excluded from the tally, the race was still close after Feb. 5. Obama went on a winning streak in February and took the next 11 contests. Superdelegates started to support Obama in large numbers.
- Mark Penn proved a poor choice as chief strategist and chief pollster, not necessarily because his advice was poor -- although it was, as he advised her to have a distant demeanor -- but because of his own ties. In particular, he hurt Clinton's standing with many progressives because of his anti-union activities and pro-trade advocacy from his lobbyist firm. Clinton failed to request he sever these damaging associations.
- By the time the campaign recovered from the staff shake-ups, it had fallen too far behind in pledged delegates. The media had already written the narrative as the race being a lost cause for Clinton. The campaign never managed to puncture this image, even though it bloodied Obama from March through June.
What does the future hold for Clinton? Her campaign has downplayed her interest in becoming vice president. Spokesperson Howard Wolfson said, "She is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her."
Clinton promised to help defeat McCain Saturday. She was quoted by the
saying that she was throwing her "full support" behind Obama, adding "I ask of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me."