Is the Clinton Campaign Lucky or Good?

She’s been strategic and smart so far this election.

With Hillary Clinton taking a commanding lead in the polls, there is a developing meme rumbling out there: she is lucky to be facing off against a loser like Donald Trump. The corollary is that she’d be behind if she was facing a more establishment Republican, i.e., John Kasich.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Kasich got trounced in the Republican primary. Would Trump supporters have eventually come around if he had managed to do better? Who knows?

There is a certain amount of truth in the idea that Trump is his own worst enemy. He literally shoots himself in the foot almost every time he opens his mouth. That’s where the “lucky” meme comes in. All a sane person has to do is sit back and let him melt down.

But it isn’t much of a stretch to notice the sexism embedded in the idea that the first female nominee of a major political party is dominating this race right now because she is lucky. The media often plays into this by focusing on the incendiary things Donald Trump says while completely ignoring the kind of campaign Clinton is running. So perhaps an overview of some of the things they’ve done right is in order.

When it first became clear that Clinton would run in 2016, I thought that the most important indication of how well she’d do was whether or not she returned with the likes of Mark Penn to run her campaign or realized that she needed some fresh faces. The fact that she chose people like Robby Mook and Maya Harris spoke volumes. And then there was this:

Over 50% of the campaign is female. Of the campaign’s more than 500 staffers nationwide, more than one-third are people of color; nearly 40% of Hillary for America’s senior staff are people of color. Regional press secretary Tyrone Gayle points out that these numbers roughly reflect national demographics…

Each department boasts steals from impressive firms including IBM, General Assembly, Etsy, Yelp, Google, Gawker, Facebook, Kiva, and DreamWorks. The digital team has talent from the New York Times and the analytics team from New York University’s formidable think tank on housing policy. The number of people from within politics is striking—for being so low. Less than half of the analytics team and almost none of the tech team ever held a campaign position.

Having that kind of team behind her, it was probably no surprise that Clinton’s first policy address of the campaign season was about criminal justice reform. From there, she built a firewall of support from African Americans and Latinos during the primary and went on to develop innovative strategies to reach out to groups like millennials and DREAMers.

As the primary came to an end and the Democratic Convention loomed, the Clinton campaign showed their willingness to work with Sanders’ supporters on the platform and highlighted his contributions by giving him credit and a prime-time speaking spot. That was a smart move on her part.

Several times (including at the Democratic Convention), Hillary has been willing to openly acknowledge that she’s not the best at giving rousing campaign speeches to huge crowds. She does it when necessary, but the campaign built a strategy that plays more to her strengths.

Finally, let’s just acknowledge that the group at The Briefing is putting out some great ads and videos. This one is still the most powerful.

I thought about all that when I read about this innovative approach from the Clinton campaign in response to early voting.

For years, presidential campaigns seeking to divide the country into manageable chunks have turned to geography. National parties assign political directors to each region…Both of President Barack Obama’s campaigns were organized around a series of six regional pods, with a lead official in each responsible for managing field, data, communication, or digital across seven or eight states.

2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also uses pods—but hers look nothing like Obama’s. As she has reoriented her campaign for the general election, her team has devised a structure that reflects not geographic contiguity, with its common weather patterns or vernacular music traditions across neighboring states, but instead the different type of campaigning she will need to win each one. Most importantly, the structure acknowledges the increasing importance of early voting, which offers Clinton the potential to lock in an early lead when ballots begin to be cast in late September…

In Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, states with major opportunities for early voting—such as North Carolina and Colorado—are in their own pod, while the remaining states are divided into two. One pod has large, diverse states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where mobilizing minorities and young whites will be essential to her victory. The other pod contains smaller, mostly white ones like Iowa and New Hampshire, which present fewer opportunities to identify and turn out new voters but a major need for persuasion.

The reorganization reflects the fact that the calendar, rather than the map, has been growing ever more important.

What all of these examples demonstrate is that Clinton is running a campaign that is both adaptable and innovative when it comes to the current environment.

For this election, it might be accurate to say that Hillary Clinton has been lucky when it comes to the opponent she is facing. But that doesn’t detract from the reality that she is also running a really good campaign this time around.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .