Clinton Banks on Long-Term Strategy, Staff Shake-Up to Salvage Sluggish Campaign

The watchwords in Hillary Clinton’s campaign are “fast forward.”

Fast forward past a weekend of losses, fast forward beyond what’s expected to be three more losses to Barack Obama on Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Fast forward to three weeks from now, when voters in Texas and Ohio vote and possibly give Clinton some breathing room in the race for delegates to the national convention in August.

Speaking to reporters after touring a General Motors plant outside Baltimore, Md., on Monday, Clinton said she feels very good about the state of the race, even though she is not expected to win any victories between now and March 4, when Ohio and Texas voters go to the polls.

”I’m still ahead in the popular vote and in delegates,” Clinton said, adding that Texas and Ohio “represent the broad electorate in this country. They represent the kind of voters that are going to have to be convinced and won over in the general election. So this is an ongoing contest.”

Clinton has lost 17 of the last 25 state races, and Obama beats her by roughly 50,000 among those called primary and caucus contests, according to a tally.

The New York senator still leads overall if Florida is included in the popular vote tally. Clinton also won Michigan but Obama’s name wasn’t on the ballot there and he did not compete in either state since both were stripped of their delegates to the national convention in August as punishment for holding early primaries.Obama is expected to win the “Potomac Primaries,” where he is now leading by double digits in recent polling. The Illinois senator relishes reminding supporters that it is time to turn the page on the Clinton era.

Indeed, Clinton is going through “a very difficult period,” top advisers say, and the campaign is already suggesting it will lose the Wisconsin primary on Feb. 19.

With the race in a nosedive, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle has bailed from her top spot, being replaced by Maggie Williams, Clinton’s chief of staff when she was first lady.

Having relied heavily on support from Latino voters throughout the nomination battle, Clinton downplayed replacing the highest-ranking Latina ever in a presidential campaign.

“This was Patti’s decision. I have the greatest respect and affection for her. She’s going to remain a senior adviser to me. But this is already a long campaign,” she said.

But while Clinton argues that Solis Doyle’s departure is attributable to exhaustion, at least one analyst notes that it’s likely more than just fatigue.

“I would assume that if the Clinton campaign had won the last few primaries that Patti Solis would still be there and receiving lots of kudos and congratulations,” said David Corn , Washington editor of The Nation magazine.

Corn, a FOX News contributor, said the campaign “surely isn’t doing as well as they had hoped to be doing at this point in time, before the primaries began.”

He added that before Clinton’s upset victory in New Hampshire, some in the Clinton camp were actually weighing the upside of a loss because it could have pushed out campaign managers like chief strategist Mark Penn, whose “influence has been waning.”

“They weren’t hoping for a loss but they were almost happy to see it because they thought that would lead to pushing out the campaign leadership,” he said.

Despite the staff shake-up, however, Corn said it’s not the staff’s fault Clinton’s poll numbers have plummeted.”My general view of this is the fish rots from the head down and the candidates can’t really blame the campaign managers for the lack of success. … At the end of the day, it’s all about the candidates,” he said.

Former Bill Clinton adviser and FOX News contributor Dick Morris said the entrance of Williams could help Hillary Clinton sort out some kinks in her organization.

“She has always been the person closest to Hillary and best able to break bad news to her. I think it is a case of Hillary reaching back for someone she feels very comfortable with and to whom she can confide. Maggie is a very kind and caring person and has a very good political brain. She is a good choice,” Morris told

Corn too said Clinton could benefit from having someone speak honestly to her, but Williams is unlikely to turn the campaign around any time soon since the schedule doesn’t favor Clinton.

“They kind of built into their game plan sort of three, four weeks of losing primaries which is really tough for anyone to withstand. … This is like the (Rudy) Giuliani strategy. It’s not quite the same but it’s close to that,” Corn said.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to savor the victories already won and is expected to take this week. Speaking to a crowd of more than 17,000 at the University of Maryland, Obama said he is ready to face any Republican challenger, but was looking forward to a face-off with John McCain.

“He is a genuine American hero, but he is on wrong side of issues. He wants to perpetuate the failed Bush economic policies and continue giving tax breaks to the wealthy while we are running up a deficit and people’s needs go unmet,” Obama said.