- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2016

The candidate herself may be bedeviled by scandal and deep doubts about her honesty, but Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign remains remarkably steady and has avoided the chaos and frequent shake-ups that have become a hallmark of her Republican opponent’s operation.

In the 16 months since she formally launched her second White House bid, Mrs. Clinton has kept the same core group around her, and political analysts say that has greatly aided the former first lady in developing a clearer message on the stump and has allowed the focus to mostly remain on policy proposals. not internal campaign drama.

Campaign manager Robby Mook, chairman John Podesta, chief foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, spokesman Brian Fallon, and longtime Clinton confidantes such as Huma Abedin remain in their original posts, as have a number of other key voices, strategists and surrogates.

On the other side, Donald Trump last week overhauled his campaign for the second time in as many months as the GOP presidential nominee confronts sagging poll numbers and a seemingly never-ending string of controversies.

The clear contrast, specialists say, surely is not the only reason Mrs. Clinton has a near double-digit lead in most presidential polls, but it certainly has played a role in the Democrat creating separation from her foe in the minds of voters.

“Clinton has a much more professional operation than Trump up and down the line,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “Clinton has benefited from having stable leadership within her organization. There have been no major shakeups, and her organization is doing the things that need to get done in a national campaign. That gives her a big advantage for the fall.”

Indeed, Mrs. Clinton’s ground-game operation is, by most accounts, miles ahead of Mr. Trump‘s. The Republican only recently launched his first series of TV ads, whereas the Clinton campaign has been on the air for months. In fact, the Clinton campaign last week began pulling ads off the air in some key battleground states, confident that their big leads in Virginia and Colorado will hold through November.

Mrs. Clinton also has focused on a core message, and her stump speeches mostly have been free of gaffes and controversy, even as she continues to deal with serious questions about her handling of classified information while secretary of state and ethical concerns swirling around foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation while she served as the nation’s top diplomat.

The Clinton campaign’s handling of those scandals has been far from perfect, and some of its decisions — along with the candidate’s own words, which have often directly contradicted an FBI investigation into her private email account — have been doubted.

But those issues have at no point led Mrs. Clinton to shake up her operation. She reportedly came close to making major changes on the heels of her blowout loss to Sen. Bernard Sanders in the New Hampshire primary in February, but in the end, she stayed the course and kept Mr. Mook, Mr. Podesta, Mr. Sullivan and others at the helm.

That wasn’t the case in 2008. As her campaign began to lose traction and fall behind that of then-Sen. Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton fired campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle. Chief strategist Mark Penn also departed in the midst of the primary against Mr. Obama.

This time, however, it is Mr. Trump who has found his campaign in a near-constant state of flux.

“Presidential campaigns require consistency and good strategic decisions, and you can’t have good strategic decisions if you don’t have direction. She’s doing better because Trump is doing worse, and because there’s no chaos in her operation,” said longtime Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

Last week, Mr. Trump brought on board Kellyanne Conway to serve as his new campaign manager, and Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon as the campaign’s new CEO. The hires seemed to sideline campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who quickly resigned two days later amid questions about his lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russia groups in Ukraine.

Those moves came less than two months after Mr. Trump fired former hard-charging campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, now a pro-Trump commentator on CNN.

The chaos on the Trump side and the relative calm on the Clinton side underline how one candidate is a political novice, while the other is a shrewd, calculating political force with decades of experience in public life.

Donald Trump is not yet a candidate. He’s the nominee, but he’s not yet learned how to be a candidate,” Mr. Sheinkopf said.

On Sunday morning, Mr. Mook — serving as manager of a presidential campaign for the first time — kept the focus on Mr. Trump and his campaign disorganization. Mr. Trump’s staff changes, Mr. Mook said, don’t matter.

“We’re not seeing a pivot,” he told ABC’s “This Week” program. “Donald Trump said himself this was not a pivot. He wants to double down on letting Donald Trump be Donald Trump,” as evidenced by bringing on conservative operatives such as Mr. Bannon.

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