A sudden switching of quarterbacks in the middle of the playoffs is not what any campaign needs; there's no question that Patti Solis Doyle's resignation will produce a spate of negative stories that no campaign likes to handle.
Was Solis Doyle, who has served in Hillaryland since 1992, shown the door? Or did she decide to leave?
Hillary Clinton's inner circle tends to make decisions based collaboratively, and interviews with campaign advisers and aides suggest that the departure was both a needed turning of the page and a recognition by Solis Doyle that she could best serve her family, and Clinton, by taking a different role.
"In part, this was Patti's choice. She knew that when things start to get funky, you have to make, for appearance sake, some changes," a senior campaign adviser who was briefed on the decision and who is close to Solis Doyle said.
Importantly, aides stressed that Solis Doyle will begin to travel with Clinton, arguably giving her even greater access to the candidate's ear. She plans to spend time helping Clinton in Texas, where she has close ties, and will appear as a surrogate on Clinton's behalf.
One campaign adviser, asserting that Clinton still has enormous confidence in Solis Doyle, noted that Clinton has gone out of her way to praise Solis Doyle in campaign conference calls since Iowa.
In way, though, the departure was anti-climactic. Solis Doyle, whose serve to Clinton began in 1992, had survived three separate coup attempts, the latest one being shortly after Iowa, when Clinton considered asking Williams to assume the title of "campaign coordinator." Twice, advisers to Bill Clinton have tried to oust her -- one in January, before the campaign officially began, and once in April, after Barack Obama raised more money than the vaunted Clinton machine.
The chief complaints were several. One was that Solis Doyle's insistence that Clinton not begin to run for president until the she formally decided to run had put her at a tremendous fundraising disadvantage. Another was that Solis Doyle, a native of Chicago, did not fully anticipate the threat that Barack Obama would pose and therefore did not come up with a strategy to contain his candidate. A third was that Solis Doyle was not adept at managing what amounted to a 500 person corporation. A fourth was that, in managing the corporation, the care and feeding of important Democrats -- the large universe of Clinton advisers outside the campaign -- fell by the wayside.
Clinton heard these complaints -- some of them having merit, others not -- and stuck by Solis Doyle. Solis had as many admirers, including much of the senior staff she hired, including communications director Howard Wolfson, chief field planner Karen Hicks, and deputy campaign manager Mike Henry among them.
Campaign advisers said that Doyle, who had spent 18-hour days in Iowa for a month, took the loss in Iowa personally. She was visibly unhappy and did not show up at the campaign's headquarters in Virginia the day after the defeat. Since then, Williams has been a larger and larger presence, even working from Solis Doyle's office when Solis Doyle was absent.
Williams participated in Solis Doyle's wedding and is said to be as close to Clinton as Solis Doyle is -- the type of staffer who can channel Clinton's voice and not be questioned by subordinates.
A second friend of Solis Doyle said that the two "had been working toward this transition."
People familiar with the decision cited as a factor that Solis Doyle has very young children and did not expect the active phase of the primary campaign to last this long, and that she had always anticipated transitioning to a different role in the spring. She was dead tired and missed her family.
Advisers admit to some tensions between Solis Doyle and the larger circle of advisers who Hillary Clinton consulted with after Iowa, including advisers to Bill Clinton who began to take a more prominent role.
The final decision, aides said, was made early this morning.
The timing is unusual. After Tuesday, Clinton will essentially be tied with Barack Obama, delegate-wise. She's just come off her biggest fundraising week ever. Clinton is thought to have an edge in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Answering questions about a campaign shake-up, even if it wasn't a shake-up, is not what the campaign wanted to be doing right now.
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