At a Washington DC breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor this morning reporters did their utmost to get Clinton senior advisor Harold Ickes to admit the campaign has failed to meet even their own goals laid out in near daily conference calls since Super Tuesday.* Ickes played the expectations game like a maestro.
One reporter asked about an Ickes prediction that Senator Clinton could end up in a tie or just “slightly behind” Obama after the next 16 states.
“I don’t think I ever said that, or I was very careful with what I said,’ Ickes responded.
“How do you define slightly behind?” the reporter pressed.
“The strategy to get there is for her to win her fair share of delegates in all these states,” Ickes said. “Look, I know the Obama strategy is to lay down markers and say we need to win by 65% here and 75 % there, 80% there. Those markers are nice to play games with but they’re not serious markers.”
A second reporter asked Ickes about another statement that a lead of 125 pledged delegates would be “fairly significant.”
“Barack Obama’s in that range now, do you perceive his lead not to be a significant one?” that reporter asked.
“Well, you know, I’m always reluctant — being a lawyer by training and having been investigated on a few occasions — I’m always reluctant to accept your version of what I said,” Ickes told the room. “I’m not saying that your version is correct or incorrect. And since I don’t know my exact words — and words are important here,” he said over laughter from the press, “I would demur on accepting your version of what I say.”
The reporter tried one last time: Was the gist inline with your thinking?
“As we all know in this city, I have a very short memory,” Ickes said over more laughs from the breakfast table. “Would we rather be in the lead? The answer’s yes, but we don’t think that the lead that he has in pledged and automatic delegates is enough to shut this process down with 16 contests to go.”
A third reporter queried Ickesabout yet another of his assertions, that Clinton would remain within 50 delegates of Obama throughout the month of February. (Clinton trails Obama now by 159 pledged delegates and 99 delegates over all, according to Real Clear Politics.) “Is it fair to say you haven’t maintained that goal?”
“Well, again, I don’t remember the exact quote, but, sure, we’d rather be closer than behind,” Ickes said. “We prefer to have a narrower gap but we think that where we are and given the dynamics of what’s going on that we’re in strong shape.”
*Note to campaigns: This may be stating the obvious but in conference calls – and in general — you may want to avoid predictions and assertions that could come back to haunt you.