The Clinton camp seemed unprepared for the insurgent campaign of Bernie Sanders.
For all the planning, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign aides appeared blindsided by the popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders’s populist message in the Democratic primary. Concern over Mrs. Clinton’s economic message seemed to reach a breaking point after Mrs. Clinton lost to Mr. Sanders by 22 percentage points in the New Hampshire primary.
“Message needs to be more positive, upbeat, hopeful,” an adviser wrote to Mr. Podesta. “Bernie is saying we can change the world. Her msg is ‘No, we can’t’ because …”
The adviser expressed particular concern about young voters gravitating to Mr. Sanders’s promise for revolution. “Bernie’s ads feature young ppl saying why they are voting / supporting him,” she wrote. “Hillary’s ads need to be young people — all under 45 and a smattering of older ones — validating her.
But the campaign did get a heads-up later from a D.N.C official about some of Sanders’s efforts.
In January, Donna Brazile, a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, passed on an email from Mr. Sanders’s African-American outreach team about how it was planning to host a Twitter-related event.
“Thank you for the heads up on this, Donna,” responded Adrienne Elrod, one of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign aides.
Ms. Brazile, a longtime party operative, later replaced Debbie Wasserman Schultz on an interim basis as D.N.C. chairwoman on the eve of the party’s national convention, a change that came after leaked emails revealed that Democratic officials had conspired to harm Mr. Sanders’s bid for the party’s nomination.
Clinton’s team was keenly aware of how vulnerable her Wall Street ties made her appear next to Sanders.
Her aides decided in January that she should avoid talking about Wall Street at an event in Nevada during her primary fight with Mr. Sanders.
“Don’t know that it is most effective contrast for her,” wrote Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s communications director. “Seems like we are picking the fight he wants to have.”