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Robby Mook Just Took a Hardest Job in Politics—Saving a Clintons From …

Robby Mook

By Andy Kroll and Patrick Caldwell | Thurs Apr. 9, 2015 06:00 AM ET

Robby Mook awoke on Nov 14, 2014, with a blade in his back.

At 6:01 that morning, ABC News published what it billed as a luscious scoop divulgence a existence of a loyal, clubby organisation of Democratic staffers who called themselves a “Mook Mafia,” so named for a star domestic operative, who was afterwards a heading contender to run Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. In leaked emails, Mook, a group’s self described “Deacon,” urged his friends to “smite Republicans mafia-style.” Mook’s on-again, off-again co-worker Marlon Marshall—a.k.a. “Most High Grown Ass Reverend Marlon D”—echoed his friend’s bro-ish, mock-dramatic tone. “F U Republicans,” he wrote to a list. “Mafia compartment we die.”

ABC didn’t name a source nonetheless described a authority as a Mook Mafia list member who “does not support a suspicion of Mook or Marshall holding care roles” in a second Clinton presidential run. By leaking a cherry-picked array of emails, this source sought to strike Mook out of a regulating for a discuss manager job. Clinton’s discuss was still in a beginning stages, and a infighting had already begun.


But a try to kneecap Mook backfired. Instead, a partial illustrated a dysfunctional, cutthroat atmosphere surrounding a Clintons and underscored a need for a discuss arch who could conduct a competing factions within Hillary Clinton’s universe. Embarrassing nonetheless a trickle competence have been, it bolstered a box for Mook, who’s famous for moving faithfulness and doing outsize egos, to take a reins of Clinton 2016.

Within days, Clinton is approaching to strictly launch her subsequent presidential bid—and Mook will be her discuss manager. He has a challenging assign of repackaging maybe a many widely famous and picked-over open figure in complicated politics and convincing a sap citizens that she should lead a nation for a subsequent 4 years. He will have to reason together a many tribes and fiefdoms within a Clinton community, while sidestepping—and surviving—the arrange of backstabbing that felled his predecessors.

Clinton Inc. Planet Hillary. Hillaryland.

Whatever it’s called, this is a immeasurable network of advisers, fixers, donors, lackeys, luminary pals, aged discuss hands, State Department staff, friends of Bill, friends of Hillary, and friends of Chelsea that surrounds a Clintons. “They usually keep building on all of a people who are good intentioned, good meaning, intensely loyal, nonetheless all have an opinion and wish to be heard,” says Patti Solis Doyle, a former assistance and crony of Hillary dating behind decades.

Solis Doyle was a initial discuss manager of a former initial lady’s 2008 presidential run. But Hillaryland’s warring factions and score-settling press leaks valid too much. In a thick of a 2008 assignment fight, Clinton relieved her of operational duties—via email and a warn discussion call—and so Solis Doyle quit.

Mook, for his part, got a clarity of what it will be like to conduct a Clintonworld expel of characters when he ran a discuss of Terry McAuliffe, a tighten crony of Bill and Hillary who was inaugurated executive of Virginia in 2013. McAuliffe’s initial run for governor, in 2009, was a disaster. He mislaid a Democratic assignment by 23 points. Four years lat­er, with Mook during a helm, McAuliffe’s discuss was so focused and trained it hold some of a candidate’s possess friends by surprise. One comparison McAuliffe assistance says he couldn’t remember a singular trickle from a discuss surrogate.

Hillary Clinton took note of Mook’s work on a McAuliffe campaign. She wants desperately to equivocate a mistakes of her final competition and run a low-drama campaign. Knowing this, advisers and former aides say, it’s not startling she chose Mook. “He’s cut from a really opposite cloth from a bold, ardent discuss managers that we hear about so often,” says pollster Geoff Garin, who worked with Mook on McAuliffe’s 2013 run. “He does not find out a spotlight and in fact does all he can to equivocate it.”

Mook is widely famous as Robby, not Robert, and during 35, he’s still boyish—handsome and smooth with close-cropped brownish-red hair. His common uniform consists of chinos and tasteless dress shirts rolled adult to a elbows. He couldn’t be some-more opposite from, say, James Carville, a loudmouth Ragin’ Cajun who suggested Bill Clinton’s initial presidential bid and now creates a vital as a consultant and TV commentator. Mook frequency appears in news stories or on TV. He did not respond to steady talk requests. He has no Facebook page. He has a Twitter comment nonetheless never tweets and has mislaid a password.

Mook, who will be a initial plainly happy manager of a vital presidential campaign, is mostly opposite over a close-knit star of Democratic staffers nonetheless good favourite within it. In further to a email listserv, his constant following—the Mook Mafia—plans yearly reunions, during that they lapse to a state where they once operated for a weekend of bar-hopping churned with volunteering for a middle campaign.

Mook’s friends and colleagues onslaught to brand any sold process emanate that drives him. Mark Penn-style theories about pivotal demographic groups (remember Soccer Moms?) don’t enthuse him either. He’s a domestic nerd who lives and dies by information and nuts-and-bolts organizing. At heart, according to those who know him, he’s a mechanic. “What drives Robby is a event to run a improved discuss than he did a final time,” says Tom Hughes, who hired Mook for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Yet in a McAuliffe race, relying on data, organizing, and a test-everything customary wasn’t enough. The tip salsa in Mook’s stewardship of a McAuliffe operation was his ability to conduct and strap all a friends and well-wishers in a candidate’s orbit, from Bill and Hillary Clinton down to a lowliest county chairman. “This is where spirit comes in,” says Paul Begala, a former confidant to Bill Clinton who helped out on a campaign. “Robby corralled us, intent us, channeled us, used us, nonetheless didn’t let us steal all his time or a campaign.”

Think of Mook, then, as a Hillaryland Whisperer. But Mook can’t concentration on Clintonworld alone. He will also need to conduct a liquid of Obama alums approaching to join Hillary’s organisation and safeguard that aged grudges and bad habits from a 2008 discuss don’t resurface. (John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s arch of staff who went on to lead Obama’s transition organisation and now chairs Hillary’s unreserved campaign, competence be means to assistance with that.)

Mook can’t discharge all of a middle disharmony that sunk Solis Doyle. He can’t reshuffle Hillary Clinton’s middle round to his liking. His assign will be doing a egos, interesting a pointy elbows, and putting to good use a brains, money, and connectors of a ever-expanding Clinton universe.

“Hillary’s not going to allot with Maggie Williams. She’s not going to allot with Cheryl Mills. She’s not going to allot with Huma Abedin usually since a new boy’s on a block,” says one Democrat tighten to a Clintons, inventory 3 of Hillary’s closest longtime advisers. “The new child on a retard has to learn who those people are, how to accommodate them, and, importantly, how to strap them towards a common enterprise. They all wish Hillary elected, nonetheless they also all have their possess turf.”

The domestic preparation of Robby Mook began during a middle dump. “Everybody has to go to a dump on weekends,” he told a Vermont weekly Seven Days in 2013, in one of a few interviews he’s ever given. “My beginning memory campaigning was going to a dump to get petition signatures or handing out literature.” The son of a Dartmouth prolongation highbrow and a sanatorium administrator, Mook orderly phone banks for a Clinton-Gore ’96 discuss as a 16-year-old. He parlayed a freshman-year bit partial in Hanover High’s prolongation of Molière’s comédie-ballet The Imaginary Invalid into a proffer gig for a play’s director, Matt Dunne, a 24-year-old afterwards regulating for his second tenure in a Vermont state Legislature. (Dunne says Mook’s Invalid try-out was one of a funniest he’s ever seen.) A few summers later, Dunne asked Mook to launch a domestic transformation cabinet to lift supports for Vermont’s House Democrats. Mook was a rising college sophomore who could not nonetheless legally splash a beer, nonetheless he won a trust of a state party’s aged guard. After graduating from Columbia in 2002 with a grade in classics, Mook spent a year as a Vermont Democratic Party’s margin director. Soon after a 2002 election, a state party’s former executive director, Tom Hughes, recruited Mook to join a New Hampshire staff for Howard Dean’s mutinous presidential run.

When Mook sealed on in a open of 2003, Dean, a former executive of Vermont, had usually 425 central supporters—nationwide—and $150,000 in a bank. The New Hampshire organisation set adult emporium in a decrepit, asbestos-riddled indent room in Manchester. “It looked like where Walter White competence make meth,” one Dean staffer recalls. Hughes, who common a Manchester unit with Mook, says Mook arrived with a futon, a few changes of clothes, and a span of dumbbells. Steve Gerencser, a Dean campaign’s emissary domestic executive in New Hampshire, recalls Mook shopping groceries and holding them true to a bureau fridge.

“mini mook

At 23, “Mookie” fast became a heart of a New Hampshire operation, former colleagues say, a singular trainer dear and reputable by his charges, a workaholic who would put on a wickedly humorous Scottish accent, a raconteur discerning to muster a fun or humorous story during staff parties. (For Mook’s 24th birthday, his colleagues bought a life-size, stand-up card cutout of him—”Mini-Mook”—looped a red-white-and-blue decoration over a shoulders, and done certain it was watchful when he arrived during his celebration during a middle sports bar.) John Hagner, who interned on a Dean discuss and worked with Mook for years afterward, recalls his aged colleague’s knack for motivating those around him. When Mook asked Hagner to stay on with Dean after his internship, Hagner didn’t hesitate. “Of march I’ll quit my job,” he says, “sleep on a someone’s floor, get paid $800 a month—and be beholden for it.”

At some point, a Deaniacs in New Hampshire satisfied that their strategy—paying canvassers to strike on doors and make phone calls—was not going to strech adequate electorate to win a primary. So on a broiling prohibited day in Jul 2003, a discuss staff collected during a University of New Hampshire for a shelter with organizing guru Marshall Ganz, a wise, crusty Harvard highbrow who had worked with Cesar Chavez and members of a polite rights movement. As if a yoga and team-building exercises weren’t hippie-dippy enough, a discuss hold Ganz’s pile-up march on village organizing in a country yurt. Ganz told a staffers they should embankment paid canvassers compelling Dean with a cookie-cutter book and instead classify a network of volunteers who would pronounce to their neighbors and friends and share their personal reasons for ancillary Dean. With these techniques, Ganz argued, a Deaniacs could arrange an army of middle volunteers and organizers able of branch out outrageous numbers of voters. The Dean discuss embraced it.

But as Mook would learn, a well-designed belligerent diversion can’t recompense for a injured candidate. Dean’s barbarous roar after a Iowa caucuses sapped a New Hampshire campaign’s momentum. Still, with a assistance of 4,500 volunteers operative on Election Day, Dean outperformed a polls and finished second in a primary behind then-Sen. John Kerry, who went on to win a Democratic nomination.

Despite a loss, a happy rope of Deaniacs would use Ganz’s teachings to reinvent Democratic campaigning. Jeremy Bird, a informal margin executive for Dean in New Hampshire, is one of a many sought-after consultants in Democratic politics, carrying masterminded Obama’s Ganz-like organizing plan during a ’08 and ’12 campaigns. Karen Hicks, a conduct of Dean’s New Hampshire team, brought her grassroots chops to Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Ben LaBolt, a Dean margin organizer, went on to turn a press secretary for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Buffy Wicks, who worked in Iowa and New Hampshire for Dean, played pivotal roles overseeing Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts in ’08 and ’12; she now runs Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC aiming to lift upwards of $300 million to elect Hillary Clinton subsequent year.

The Kerry discuss and celebration pooh-bahs in Washington were tender adequate to sinecure Hicks, Mook, and Bird for a ubiquitous election. But in contrariety to a scrappy Dean alums, Kerry’s comparison staff sneered during regulating volunteers to win elections. Fucking drum-circle weirdos—that’s what some Kerry insiders called Mook and his colleagues. Mook, who hated being stranded in DC crunching numbers, would ramble around domicile slapping mailing stickers onto himself and colleagues in a not-so-subtle call for removing out of a office. He spent a campaign’s final weeks in Wisconsin, where Kerry won by a meagre 11,000 votes.

George W. Bush’s reelection left Mook and Bird, now roommates in a little studio unit in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, acid for new gigs. Bird fondly remembers sitting around one night, a dual roommates buried in books, Bird defeat by novella while tantalizing Mook for reading slowly. Mook’s excuse: He was reading in Greek. His bookshelves are still stocked with books in a strange Greek and histories of enigmatic topics including numismatics, a investigate of currency.

Mook could have sought a cushy pursuit during a domestic consulting organisation or a comparison container on a high-profile race. Instead, he motionless to run a discuss of Dave Marsden, a claimant for state nominee in northern Virginia. “You could demeanour during it and say, ‘Ew, that looked like a retrograde move,’ nonetheless in fact it was really deliberate,” says Hicks, Mook’s trainer on a Dean and Kerry campaigns. “He wanted to learn to conduct from a belligerent adult and wanted believe not usually from a margin side nonetheless from a whole campaign.”

Marsden was a first-time candidate, nonetheless Mook treated a discuss like a presidential run in miniature. He hired 5 full-time organizers to cover a little 13-precinct district and enlisted Bird to sight them. Drawing on his Rolodex of friends, congressional staffers, and discuss operatives, he threw a packaged keg celebration fundraiser for Marsden during a palace on Capitol Hill, nonetheless few, if any, of a profitable attendees could opinion in a race. By Election Day, a discuss and a volunteers had so entirely blanketed a district that Mook’s master list of expected Marsden supporters showed one voter unaccounted for. Forty-five mins before polls closed, Mook gathering to her home, waited outward until she returned, and reliable that, yes, she’d voted. Marsden won by 20 points in a toss-up district. “I don’t consider Fairfax County had ever seen a discuss orderly on this turn before,” Marsden says.

The following year, Mook managed a Maryland Democratic Party’s concurrent campaign, a rude pursuit plotting strategy, gripping dozens of possibilities on a same page, and fundraising for Dems adult and down a ballot. “It’s a tiny state, nonetheless they have a lot of really vast players,” says Josh White, who ran Martin O’Malley’s successful gubernatorial discuss that year. “It was critical to have somebody who could literally coordinate everybody and try to keep everybody happy.” In Maryland, Mook met Marlon Marshall, who became a tighten crony and collaborator. He was as ardent and loquacious as Mook was unassuming. But a dual common a healthy assisting of ambition, and in early 2007, they assimilated Mook’s aged trainer Karen Hicks on Hillary Clinton’s nascent presidential campaign. Mook and Marshall were dispatched to Nevada, where they set out to build a Dean-style, volunteer-powered, grassroots appurtenance that could broach Clinton an early congress win.

Soon after her victory in a New Hampshire presidential primary, Hillary Clinton flew to Las Vegas. It was mid-January 2008, and there was a week to go before a Nevada caucuses. Huddled with her comparison staff in a private room during a steakhouse, Clinton vented her frustrations.

She felt burned, carrying sunk outrageous amounts of time and income into a Iowa caucuses usually to be routed by Obama, who was proof formidable to dispatch. Now, her discuss was broke. Why would Nevada—another congress state, one where a many absolute labor unions had permitted Obama—be any opposite from Iowa? Local inaugurated officials bitched to Clinton about her Nevada operation’s progress. “Everybody was arrange of freaking out about where we were,” Hicks recalls. Bill and Hillary pronounced they’d usually as shortly skip Nevada and concentration on Super Tuesday, a one-day primary excavation in February.

The assign of convincing Clinton not to shelter from Nevada fell, in vast part, to Mook. Seated opposite from Clinton and her tip aides, Mook forked to clever levels of support in a state among women, Latinos, and low-income voters. Despite being carnivorous for funds, Mook and his organisation had pulled out all a stops to win over pivotal activists via a state. He had even attended, unbeknownst to his staff, a Celine Dion unison during Caesar’s Palace during a ask of a middle LGBT rights group. (He done it behind to a Nevada discuss bureau on Tropicana Avenue in time for a nightly check-in call.)

Hillary and Bill suspicion it over. In a end, they agreed: Stay and quarrel it out. President Clinton planted himself in Nevada for a final week, and Hillary went door-to-door.

By midafternoon of congress day, it was transparent that Mook was right; Clinton won with 51 percent of a renouned vote. (Obama, however, wound adult with some-more of Nevada’s delegates.) The media, so fervent to write off Clinton’s candidacy after Iowa, described her resounding back. Rory Reid, a Clinton campaign’s Nevada chairman, invited Mook to a Clintons’ apartment in a Bellagio to celebrate. Mook had spent a prior dual days in a raging final push; soiled and sweaty, he arrived final to a suite. “When everybody else was celebrating,” says Reid, a son of Sen. Harry Reid, “he was perplexing to rinse off a formula of a 48-hour organizing effort.”

Despite a Clinton campaign’s top-down proceed to winning a nomination, giving some-more weight to inhabitant polls and fundraising totals than state-level organizing, Mook did his partial to move a Dean character of campaigning to Clintonworld. His record wasn’t mislaid on his foes in a Obama campaign. “He kick us 3 times; his footprint was on a back,” David Plouffe, one of a architects of Obama’s presidential campaigns, told Bloomberg News. “Our clarity was he did a best pursuit of anyone over there.”

Clinton’s Nevada discuss was a hearth of a Mook Mafia, with a core organisation following Mook and picking adult additional members as Mook bounced from one state to a subsequent for Clinton, winning primary victories in Ohio, Indiana, and Puerto Rico. The group’s name became central in Indiana, when a mafiosi astounded Mook with T-shirts emblazoned with a Marlon Marshall mantra: “Mook Mafia: Please Believe.”

After Clinton mislaid a assignment to Obama, Mook spent a tumble of 2008 handling Jeanne Shaheen’s Senate competition in New Hampshire. But he never strayed distant from a Clinton camp. After Obama tapped Clinton to offer as his secretary of state, Mook had a choice of holding a pursuit in Foggy Bottom, nonetheless motionless opposite it. Instead, he went to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a celebration classification focused on electing Democrats to a US House of Representatives. There, Mook would learn a mechanics of congressional races from Maine to Hawaii. For his initial pursuit as domestic director, he recruited new possibilities to run for bureau for a 2010 midterms, and he amassed an recurrent believe of a nation’s 435 House districts. He was after promoted to a pursuit presiding over a DCCC’s $65 million fight chest for eccentric ad spending in 2010. He witnessed adult tighten and personal a arise of a tea celebration and a shellacking a Democrats endured that year. During a 2012 cycle, when House Democrats upended pundits’ grave predictions by winning some-more than a dozen seats, he ran a whole organization.

Mook hadn’t nonetheless left a DCCC when he concluded to run Terry McAuliffe’s second bid for governor. Going into Terry 2.0, Mook knew a pursuit would need commanding fortify on a famously excitable “Macker.” (“Sleep when you’re dead!” was McAuliffe’s refrain to his sleep-deprived staffers.) Despite McAuliffe’s supernatural fundraising abilities, Mook drew on a technological necromancy of a Obama ’12 discuss and a DIY enlightenment of Dean ’04, borrowing seat from middle Democratic committees and putting staffers adult during Super 8 motels; Mook’s possess station desk, one staffer recalls, was a smoke-stack of copy-paper boxes.

Mook fabricated a organisation that enclosed Mook Mafia members and tip talent from Obama’s dual campaigns. One of a initial things he did was to call his aged crony Jeremy Bird, uninformed off Obama’s reelection, and ask that margin organizers he should sinecure from a president’s campaign. Mook chose early on to deposit in a statewide belligerent game—a preference that eventually increasing audience opposite Virginia, generally among black voters. McAuliffe squeezed past Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and his 3-point win remarkable a initial time in 40 years that a Virginia gubernatorial claimant won with a boss from a same celebration in a White House.

There was a predicted inundate of “How McAuliffe Won” stories after Election Day, nonetheless they did not spotlight a operatives behind a curtain, as discuss postmortems tend to do. That was no accident. According to Brennan Bilberry, McAuliffe’s communications director, a few weeks out from a election, Mook told a McAuliffe campaign’s press emporium that there would be no glorifying of staff members or thespian retellings of a moments when a competition hung in a balance. Even after victory, he insisted, a concentration should sojourn on a candidate.

On Mar 10, Hillary Clinton stepped to a microphone during a fast organised press discussion during a United Nations. A week earlier, a New York Times had reported that Clinton used a personal email when she was secretary of state, potentially in defilement of sovereign recordkeeping rules. Her address—hdr22@clintonemail.com—was hosted on a private server purebred to a Clintons’ Chappaqua, New York, home, lifting concerns about a confidence of a supportive emails sent and perceived by Clinton while during State. Of a 60,000 emails from her 4 years as secretary of state, she handed over roughly half to a dialect and deleted a remaining 30,000 or so messages, that she claimed were personal. “Looking back,” she told reporters, “it would have been substantially smarter” to have used a supervision email account.

Politico‘s write-up of a press conference, quoting “sources in a Clinton camp,” suggested a middle groups over how best respond to a email controversy. Several Clinton advisers had speedy her to lay for one-on-one interviews with TV networks, rather than a harder-to-control atmosphere of a normal press conference. Mook had pushed for a quicker, some-more assertive pushback. The discuss inside Clinton’s domestic operation, Politico noted, took on a “generational cast.” (A Clinton orator doubtful this outline of a campaign’s middle debate.)

Clinton’s campaign-in-waiting had nonetheless to pointer an bureau lease, and already middle deliberations were spilling out into open view. The disaster indicated that Mook had a prolonged approach to go to get control of a logging boat he would shortly be piloting.

Mook, though, is doing his best to reconstruct his past drama-free campaigns. He’s brought on his aged crony Marlon Marshall, McAuliffe comparison staffers Michael Halle, Brynne Craig, and Josh Schwerin, and a brew of reputable Obama alums.

At this early stage, it’s opposite either stocking a Clinton discuss with Mook mafiosi can move sequence and fortify to Planet Hillary. No doubt, a array of contretemps, slipups, and scandals (real or trumped-up) will strike a Clinton discuss in a months to come. And in a past—with or but scandals—the competing elements of Clintonworld have always seemed to find a approach to emanate dispute of their own.

Can Mook levy an middle ease and make certain Team Clinton focuses on one imperative: electing Hillary? “It’s really difficult,” Patti Solis Doyle says with a quiescent laugh, “I will tell we that.” But should Mook succeed, zero could be some-more dramatic.


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