Everybody knows the seven stages of grieving, but less well-known are the seven stages of campaign collapse. However, we can see that Team Clinton has managed to cruise through the first three stages, and is poised to enter Stage 4 any day now:
1 - Polling Denial
In this stage, the campaign simple refuses to believe the latest impartial polling results. They can’t accept that they’ve lost 20% in Iowa, or they’re neck-and-neck in New Hampshire. They say things like “Our internal polling shows there’s nothing to worry about”, meaning that they have no idea what’s going on.
2 - Negative Rage
Here a campaign goes negative as it slowly comes to the realization that the polls are correct and there’s a problem. This can take many forms, from the exceedingly nasty (re:Willie Horton) to the sublimely incompetent (Obama’s kindergarten essays). Often this leads to massive self-inflicted damage, like when some geeky kid insists that he’s a stud because he’s got a nympho girlfriend in Canada.
3 - Changing Strategies
Some campaigns change managers, some campaigns change direction, and some do both. But it doesn’t change anything, because campaigns never change candidates, and that’s typically what the problem is. If you run a glacial ice queen viewed as riding her husband’s coattails, then bringing the husband in to run things doesn’t particularly change this image.
4 - Pandering
Who wants a tax break? Government funded health care? Required union coverage for employers with more than ten employees? Talking monkeys? A campaign in this stage is willing to promise anything for your vote. The stink of desperation is strongest at this stage, just like when the geek shows a photoshopped picture of Tera Patrick wearing a Maple Leaves cap on standing next to him along with a postcard that he signed left-handed that says “To my footlong hoagie lover-boy.”
5 - Lashing Out
“Those stupid Iowa hicks just don’t appreciate how wonderful I am.”
“Those hard-headed New Hampshire yahoos just don’t appreciate how wonderful I am.”
“Those South Carolina racist rednecks just don’t appreciate how wonderful I am.”
This stage can also take the form of a prolonged howl of anguish, like Inigo Montoya’s Call of Ultimate Suffering.
6 - Wild Allegations
Here paranoia reigns supreme as a candidate alleges all sorts of dirty tricks: plants from the other campaigns, vast right-wing conspiracies, voters being dissatisfied for unrelated reasons, and other terrible innuendos to explain their plummeting numbers. Yeah, sure, and the girlfriend in Canada swallows.
7 - Reduced Expectations
Finally the candidate laughs off their failed attempt at office by restating their primary goal: they only wanted to draw attention to some critical issue, they just wanted to energize voters, or they were just practicing for the “real” election in 2012. Or, it was their plan to lose the first three primaries all along, and then sweep to victory in the coastal states.
Yeah, sure, and this nympho girlfriend in Canada is a supermodel who can’t find a better boyfriend than you.