Hillary Clinton campaign biographer: Here’s where she went wrong

The co-author of a new book detailing Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election says the Democratic candidate and her top aides could see the wave of populism building in places like Britain, but refused to prepare for its arrival in the United States.

“It was like standing on a beach and seeing a slow-moving tsunami from the middle of the ocean moving towards you, and you never move,” Jonathan Allen told Yahoo News in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday, a day after the release of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” which Allen wrote with The Hill’s Amie Parnes.

“They did see what was going on in Great Britain — Bill Clinton talked about Brexit all the time. Hillary Clinton was concerned about it,” Allen said. “But she really never had the feel for what was going on in this country and how to adjust for it in the right way.”

Clinton could never figure out how to tap into the populism that propelled not only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to surprising wins in the Democratic primary elections but Donald Trump to the presidency, Allen said.

“She is somebody who has always believed in working through the system and trying to make change through the system,” Allen said. “This is somebody who fundamentally believes in the establishment. It’s how she’s lived her life. And the idea that the American public would turn around and sort of burn down what it had built, this thing that she believes in. … It was too hard for her to grasp.”

According to the book, after Sanders crushed Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton turned to Minyon Moore, one of her longtime aides, and said: “I don’t understand what’s happening in the country.”

A Clinton supporter uses his smartphone as others leave her election night rally in New York City. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Clinton supporters leave her election night rally in New York City. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On election night, as Trump was racking up wins in states like Wisconsin, Bill Clinton said, “It’s like Brexit. … I guess it’s real.”

Clinton’s alleged inability to adapt to the changing political landscape was highlighted during the Democratic primary by her refusal to distance herself from Wall Street — something the Sanders campaign seized upon — and her focus on attracting African-American voters she failed to win over in 2008.

The result was alienating some white working-class voters, Allen said.

“Sometimes when she was talking about issues of concern for those voters, other voters decided she wasn’t talking about the things they cared about,” he said. “We saw the same thing play out in the general election.”

But some strategic failures were obvious from the outset of Clinton’s campaign, Allen said.

In particular: Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state — and her initial refusal to apologize for it.

“This really went to this trust issue, and it was something that was hard to begin with and it just built over time,” Allen said.

Related: Hillary Clinton reportedly said ‘that was my last race’ after losing election

The book details a summer 2015 conference call between Bill and Hillary Clinton and her top aides. The former first family was reportedly “furious” that her campaign had not come up with a way to break through the email scandal.

“The aides were all thinking, ‘You’ve got to apologize. We’ve been telling you you’ve got to apologize,'” Allen said. “It was an example of how the Clintons didn’t get or didn’t want to get that she needed to apologize. And eventually she did, but it took a really strong persuasion effort all the way up and down the ranks of her close friends and allies to get her to do it.”

Other things were out of the Democratic nominee’s control.

“What one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides said after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape came out was, this just reconfirmed what people thought about Donald Trump,” Allen recalled. “And it wasn’t something that actually changed votes.”

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