After the latest shake-up of her inner circle, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign will focus more intently on spreading a positive message about her and will be less aggressive in attacking rival Barack Obama, Democratic insiders say.
Over the weekend, Clinton ousted Mark Penn, her chief strategist who is widely blamed for her falling from front-runner status in her competition with Obama. She promoted communications director Howard Wolfson and pollster Geoff Garin, two longtime party operatives who will now be in charge of the campaign's message, according to campaign manager Maggie Williams. Wolfson has worked for Clinton for years and is known for his loyalty to Senator Clinton and his ability to stay on message, no matter what the theme may be. Garin is a relative newcomer to her senior advisory corps, but he will bring some big changes. For one thing, he is quiet and self-effacing, unlike the abrasive and argumentative Penn, who alienated other Clinton insiders with his arbitrary manner. Garin is also known to be more eager to tap into big themes of change and conciliation than was Penn, who emphasized Clinton's toughness and experience in Washington.
Now the campaign is expected to find ways of emphasizing Clinton's positive traits, such as her personality and empathy. Wolfson also wants to place more emphasis on her likability. Clinton lags behind Obama in pledged delegates and is hoping for a big win in the Pennsylvania primary April 22. Penn was forced out after the Wall Street Journal revealed that he had met with Colombian officials March 31 to help develop a strategy to win congressional approval of a Colombian free-trade agreement that Clinton opposes. Penn said he was acting as chief executive of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, a job he retains outside the Clinton campaign. Penn called the meeting an "error in judgment" and apologized, but it wasn't enough to save his job with Clinton.
—Kenneth T. Walsh