A Clinton campaign official is blaming FBI director James Comey for Hillary Clinton’s monumental loss to Donald Trump on Tuesday.
“We believe that we lost this election in the last week,” Navin Nayak, the head of the campaign’s opinion research division, wrote in an email late Thursday to the campaign’s senior staff. The email was obtained by Politico.
“Comey’s letter in the last 11 days of the election both helped depress our turnout and also drove away some of our critical support among college-educated white voters — particularly in the suburbs,” Nayak added.
On Oct. 28, Comey sent a letter to Congress in which he said that new evidence had been found that may relate to the FBI’s closed investigation of Clinton’s emails. He suggested that the investigation was being reopened. The Clinton campaign blasted Comey for issuing a vague letter that provided few details about what the new evidence might be.
Comey attempted to redress those grievances on Sunday, when he sent out another letter stating that the new evidence did not change the FBI’s decision in July to not charge Clinton with mishandling classified information.
But Nayak said that Comey’s follow-up letter may also have hurt Clinton and helped Trump.
“We also think Comey’s 2nd letter, which was intended to absolve Sec. Clinton, actually helped to bolster Trump’s turnout,” he wrote.
Clinton’s loss was a surprise to most. Polls had her leading Trump by three or four points nationally. She also had healthy leads, according to the polls, in states like Michigan and Wisconsin which Democrats had dubbed the blue state firewall. But Trump carried those states along with Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
Other post-mortems have blamed the Clinton campaign for ignoring white working class voters. Bill Clinton reportedly pressed campaign organizers to reach out to those groups. But the data-driven campaign team opted instead to focus on turning out Latino and African-American voters.
Nayak wrote that early vote turnout was “dramatically up” in battleground states like Florida and Colorado. Internal data showed that Clinton had strong support in the early vote and that “a winning coalition” of women, African-American, Latino and college-educated white voters would carry her to victory.
“But then everything changed in the last week,” wrote Nayak.
“Voters who decided in the last week broke for Trump by a larger margin (42-47). These numbers were even more exaggerated in the key battleground states.”
Nayak cited two major events that occurred in the last week.
“Director Comey released his first letter 11 days out from the election, which likely helped to depress turnout among Hillary’s supporters,” he wrote, adding that “two days before Election Day, Director Comey released a 2nd letter, which energized Trump supporters.”
Nayak also suggested that strong early vote numbers may have led to “a significant drop in Election Day turnout, particularly among Hillary supporters.”
“This was noticeable in both larger cities such as Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Milwaukee, and Detroit and the suburbs surrounding these and other cities,” he asserted.
“There is no question that a week from Election Day, Sec. Clinton was poised for a historic win,” but “in the end, late breaking developments in the race proved one hurdle too many for us to overcome,” Nayak continued.
He did acknowledge that macro forces may have generated headwinds for Clinton.
“Global forces that we’re driving deep-seated anger at institutions the world over, and an angry and alienated electorate at home that was frustrated with our political economic system,” he wrote.
He also cited “the inherent desire for change after one party occupies the White House for two-terms” and “the unprecedented task of electing the first woman to the highest office in the land” as roadblocks to Clinton’s path to the White House.