After a difficult start to her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, with a narrow win in Iowa and a bad loss to Bernie Sanders Tuesday night in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton needs a major boost. Fortunately for her, the next state to cast its votes is much more favorable territory for the presumed front-runner. Part of her advantage in Nevada, which holds its Democratic caucuses on Feb. 20, is demographic: It’s a far more diverse state than the lily-white ones that kicked off the contest. But Clinton is also counting on a secret weapon to dominate the ground game in Nevada and deliver her a decisive win: campaign manager Robby Mook.
The 36-year-old Mook first rose to fame in Clintonland after he oversaw Clinton’s 2008 Nevada caucus campaign, where she won 51 percent of the popular vote. (Barack Obama actually netted more delegates from the state, thanks to the convoluted math of the caucus system.) After glowing reviews of his Nevada performance, Mook was entrusted with managing Clinton’s efforts in other important territories: Ohio, Indiana, and Puerto Rico—all of which she went on to win. “Robby was instrumental in her winning them,” one member of the 2008 Clinton campaign’s leadership told me last spring when Mook took the job atop Clinton’s 2016 nationwide campaign.
As Andy Kroll and I explained in a profile of Mook last spring, Mook was an outlier in Clinton’s 2008 campaign. He’d gotten his start in presidential politics directing field work for Howard Dean’s 2004 New Hampshire campaign. The Deaniacs ran an unconventional organization for the time. In the summer of 2003, they brought in Marshall Ganz, a Harvard lecturer and expert on community organizing, who, over a weekend of trust exercises and yurt camping, instructed the Dean campaign on how to build an army of volunteers that would create an ever-expanding pool of fans working to convince their neighbors and friends to vote for Dean.