Political Capital with John Harwood

Hillary Clinton's New Strategist: Meet Geoff Garin


Can a new strategist change the course of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination at this stage in the race? Geoff Garin is about to find out.

Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster, stands in some ways as the antithesis ofhis ousted predecessor Mark Penn: as easy-going as Mr. Penn is brusque, known for unvarnished analysis in contrast to Mr. Penn's reputation for incorporating his centrist views into advice to candidates.

The numbers he faces are foreboding, with Mrs. Clinton trailing Barack Obama by more than 160 pledged delegates and watching her lead in so-called "super-delegates" shrink by about one per day. Everyone involved acknowledges it's a longshot.

But his elevation now could herald a less negative tone for the candidate's attempt to catch up. Inside the Clinton team, Mr. Penn had come to advocate increasingly sharp attacks on Mr. Obama has the former First Lady's best remaining option.

Long before he joined the campaign, Mr. Garin had argued that her route to success lay more in presenting her strengths than in assailing her opponent.

"The sweet spot a campaign needs to hit is the intersection between what makes the candidate special and what the voters feel they need," he explained, praising her values, spunk and resilience. In a recent meeting lasting several hours with Mrs. Clinton, he added, "I had the same reaction so many people have: I wish everyone could see her this way. If we could help make that happen, that would be great."

An ardent fan of the Washington Nationals baseball team, Mr. Garin cast his campaign role as that of "the seventh inning guy instead of the starter." But his genial relationships throughout the party may offer some reassurance that the endgame of the nomination fight won't prove as damaging to Democratic hopes this fall as some have feared.

"I don't want there to be a thermo-nuclear climax," he said. "Sen. Clinton is committed to having a united Democratic Party at the end of this process. Sen. Obama is committed to having a united Democratic Party at the end of this process. And we will have a united Democratic Party at the end of this process."

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