Clinton's chief strategist causes more headaches.

Down and on the way out.
April 4 2008 5:56 PM

The Hillary Deathwatch

Clinton's chief strategist causes more headaches.

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An ill-timed trade meeting by Clinton's strategist, a 2-to-1 fundraising gap, and a crowd-pleasing Leno appearance shake out to a 0.2-point drop to 8.8 percent.

Ruining Clinton's breakfast today is a report that chief strategist Mark Penn met with Colombian officials Monday to discuss a free-trade deal that she opposes. After the fuss Clinton raised over Austan Goolsbee and NAFTA, this is likely to dog her, even though Penn was representing his PR company, not the campaign. Penn has been a walking headache for Clinton ever since he distanced himself from the campaign's screw-ups in the Los Angeles Times last month. Yet he keeps his job, along with his generous salary.

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Clinton spends the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death in Memphis, Tenn., where she'll propose creating a Cabinet position called "poverty czar." She might consider making it a campaign position, too. After Obama released his March fundraising figures yesterday—$40 million—word leaked that Clinton's number was more like $20 million. Money isn't everything—just look what happened in Ohio and Texas, where Obama outspent Clinton—but Obama's fundraising superiority continues to turn heads.

Polls today are a mixed bag for Clinton. A New York Times/CBS survey shows Obama's national lead over Clinton shrinking. The poll puts him just ahead of her, 46 percent to 43 percent. (Read the PDF here.) But she's up in Indiana 49 percent to 46 percent, according to the South Bend Tribune; an American Research Group poll has her leading by an impressive 53 percent to 44 percent. Plus, Obama's favorability rating has dropped seven points to 62 percent, per the NYT survey.

Clinton's favorability rating, meanwhile, continues to languish at a career low of 38 percent, according to the same poll, inspiring what First Read calls her new "likeability tour." Clinton appeared on The Tonight Show yesterday, cracking wise about Los Angeles "sniper fire" and softening up the audience with stories about health care failures and job losses. (Leno must relate; he's getting replaced by Conan in 2009.) Her appearance on Ellen—which has somehow become the talk show of choice for political image-buffing—airs Monday.

Remember how Gov. Jon Corzine hinted that he would switch to Obama if Obama won the popular vote? Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha seemed to echo his sentiment yesterday, telling the Huffington Post that Clinton can't win the nomination without the popular vote. Murtha, a Clinton supporter, predicted a double-digit win by Clinton in the Keystone State, although her campaign is tamping down expectations.

Today could also be the day Clinton chooses to release her 2000-2006 tax returns, which her campaign said would happen this week. It's hard to see the disclosure helping Hillary—it's either bad news or no news—but at least it gets the transparency hawks off her back.

Only 18 days till Pennsylvania!

For a full list of our Deathwatches, click here. For a primer on Hillary's sinking ship, visit our first Deathwatch entry. Send your own prognostications to hillarydeathwatch@gmail.com.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.