Bill Clinton stood before an audience of blue-collar workers in Lansing, Mich., two days before the presidential election and told them he understood and empathized with the economic frustrations of the working class.

“There’s a lot of road rage out there because after the financial crash, it took a long time before incomes started going up again. There are still some families that if you adjust for inflation, their incomes are about what they were the last day I was president more than 15 years ago and their costs are going up. And that’s really tough,” the former president drawled as he campaigned on behalf of his wife, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“So when you get up every morning, and you look in the mirror and you don’t think you’ve got the power to make tomorrow better than today, that’s a pretty tough load to carry,” he told an audience that included blue-collar union laborers.

Compared to the main themes of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, the former president’s remarks in Lansing seemed like an off-script moment.

The team’s tightly coordinated list of talking points did not include much of anything on working-class woes.

It certainly did not include anything specific about addressing the anger and frustration of white rural voters in the so-called the Rust Belt, a region spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Once the epicenter of American industrialization, this area has fallen on harder times, and now teems with voters who are unhappy about lost jobs, shuttered factories and struggling businesses.

Lasing, as it turns out, was not a one-off incident for Bill Clinton. It certainly was not a first for him on the campaign trail.

His comments in Michigan marked the last leg of a lonely, one-man war he launched earlier in the election to appeal to working-class and rural voters, which senior Clinton staffers reportedly told him were not worth the time and effort.

In the final days of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton and her team of proxies stuck to three key taking points: That she has the resume to be president, that it would be progressive to vote for a woman and that Donald Trump is unfit to lead.

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On the rare occasion first lady Michelle Obama addressed supporters, she focused exclusively on women’s issues and Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct. President Obama, meanwhile, focused on the seriousness of the office and the un-seriousness of Donald Trump.

Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., kept it extra vanilla, never straying far from the campaign’s core message that his boss was extremely qualified and Trump was anything but.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for her part, ignored the campaign’s oft-repeated boast that “When they go low, we go high,” and restricted her campaign remarks almost entirely to attacking Trump with schoolyard taunts, including on Oct. 25 when she called him a “pathetic bully,” an “insecure money grubber” and a “selfish little sleazeball” at a campaign rally in Raleigh, N.C.

Hillary Clinton herself spent much of the time on the campaign trail attacking Trump, despite repeated claims that she wanted to give voters something to “vote for, not against.” Like her surrogates, Clinton also talked up her experience in public office, arguing that it qualified her for the White House, and likewise encouraged voters to make history by putting a woman in the Oval Office.

Absent from the scores of campaign rallies featuring either Clinton or one of her stand-ins were explicit and empathetic appeals to the frustrations of disaffected working-class and rural voters.

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This is not to say Clinton and her team never addressed economic issues, or that they did not campaign in parts of the Rust Belt.

Many did, especially Obama, whose campaign rallies often included remarks on his efforts to improve economic conditions following the 2008 financial crisis. In the closing days of the election, the president also touted bailing out the auto industry and working to boost the federal minimum wage.

Further, Warren, Clinton and Kaine talked often about closing the so-called wage gap.

However, though the Democratic nominee and her team campaigned in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, they focused almost all of their efforts on targeting densely populated urban areas, and gave little thought to the outside rural territories.

Further, there was a major difference between how Bill Clinton and the rest of the campaign approached discussing the economy. As Hillary Clinton, Obama and others claimed fortunes had improved greatly since 2008, and that things can get better, Bill Clinton was traveling the country telling voters the situation is rough for many Americans, and that those people need empathy and help.

The only campaign surrogate who came close to echoing Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain” style of sympathy for this discarded voting bloc was Bernie Sanders, who performed well with this group during the Democratic primary.

As Hillary Clinton and her team crisscrossed the country hawking a safe and sanitized version of their “Stronger Together” campaign slogan, the Vermont lawmaker was telling working-class voters that real unemployment is too high and that Washington and Wall Street had given them a raw deal.

However, like Sen. Warren, who also railed against the financial industry, Sanders was conspicuously silent on the fact that the candidate they supported had made an impressive sum of money charging Wall Street firms massive speaking fees.

Further, like Bill Clinton, Sanders’ appeal to working-class voters was drowned out ultimately by the campaign’s much louder focus on attacking Trump and underscoring the former secretary of state’s public record.

The unique challenge of addressing rural and working-class frustrations while cheerleading the Obama administration’s handling of the economy proved too much of a riddle for the Clinton campaign to solve, and they chose in the end to not even bother with this voting bloc, much to Bill Clinton’s reported protestation.

The former president saw early during the Democratic primary that his wife had a real problem connecting with these frustrated voters, many of whom overwhelmingly preferred Sanders’ message on jobs and trade.

Bill Clinton reportedly warned the campaign that they needed to address the issue head-on and immediately, but “his advice fell on deaf ears,” according to the New York Times.

Hillary Clinton’s 36-year-old campaign manager, Robby Mook, dismissed the advice of the 70-year-old former president as the ravings of an aged athlete desperate to regain his former glory, and insisted instead that young, Latino and black voters were the key to winning 2016.

“Bill Clinton had railed … for months” against the campaign’s disinterest in the working class, “wondering aloud at meetings why the campaign was not making more of an attempt to even ask that population for its votes,” Politico reported.

“Bill Clinton’s viewpoint of fighting for the working-class white voters was often dismissed with a hand wave by senior members of the team as a personal vendetta to win back the voters who elected him, from a talented but aging politician who simply refused to accept the new Democratic map,” the report added. “At a meeting ahead of the convention at which aides presented to both Clintons the ‘Stronger Together’ framework for the general election, senior strategist Joel Benenson told the former president bluntly that the voters from West Virginia were never coming back to his party.”

Mook, who was tapped to manage the Clinton campaign in 2015, came to the Democratic nominee with a resume filled with wins and losses.

He worked as a field director in 2002 for Doug Racine’s failed gubernatorial election in Vermont. Mook then worked in 2004 as a deputy field director for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s failed bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He later joined the Democratic National Committee and headed get out the vote efforts in Wisconsin for then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who lost in the general election to President George W. Bush.

Kerry won the Badger State by only 11,000 votes.

In 2005, things started to look up for the young politico. He managed the successful campaign of Dave W. Marsden, who won a Republican-held seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. From there, Mook managed Martin O’Malley’s successful 2006 gubernatorial bid in Maryland. Mook also helped now-Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., defeat then-Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Michael Steele.

From there, Mook went on to work for Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid. He was then tapped to manage the senatorial campaign of Jeanne Shaheen, who serves now as the senior U.S. senator from New Hampshire. Mook then served as a successful campaign manager for Terry McAuliffe, who was elected Virginia’s governor in 2014.

By the spring of 2016, months after being appointed campaign manager, Mook’s influence was such that senior staffers sided with him against Bill Clinton.

But as the campaign ignored the former president’s warning on losing working-class and rural whites, the former president ignored the campaign’s assessment that it wasn’t an issue worth their time and effort.

The aging former commander in chief decided to go it alone, and launched a personal campaign to court these voters directly by visiting small towns and cities in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

Bill Clinton’s remarks in Lansing two days before the election were no mistake, and, in his mind, he wasn’t going off script. For America’s 42nd president, whose more than 60 campaign rallies usually included a direct appeal to working-class voters, reaching out to these people became an increasingly crucial issue.

“In the final weeks of the campaign, a despondent Mr. Clinton held a flurry of his own events in Ohio, Iowa, the Florida Panhandle and Wisconsin, talking to the white voters who like him but who view his wife with distrust,” the New York Times reported.

Bill Clinton spoke often on the campaign trail about the voting bloc discarded by Mook and other senior staffers, arguing repeatedly that as a white Southerner, he empathized and understood their frustrations.

He did this sometimes in unflattering terms, but almost always from a place of self-deprecating humor.

“The other guy’s base is what I grew up in,” he said in October during a campaign stop in Fort Myers, Fla. “You know, I’m basically your standard redneck.”

His comments came as part of a larger appeal to his audience to reach out to undecided voters and even pro-Trump supporters to tell them the Democratic nominee’s campaign understands them and wants to include them.

“Don’t engage in our version of all this screaming,” Clinton said. “Go out there and look people in the eye who aren’t going to vote for her and tell them we still want them to be part of America. Tell them we need them.”

“I know how they feel,” he added in reference to angry and frustrated voters, many of whom gravitated toward Trump. “And I’m telling you, the older you get, the worse it is if you look in the mirror every day and you think you can’t do anything to change the future.”

This message became a theme in Bill Clinton’s stump speeches, as he called again and again for empathy and understanding for angry working-class voters, especially for those who had gravitated towards Trump.

On the exact opposite side of things, Hillary Clinton handed the GOP and its supporters a rallying cry in September when she claimed at a fundraiser in New York City that “half” of Trump’s supporters were “irredeemable” bigots.

She said later at a campaign rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “I am sick and tired of the negative, dark, divisive, dangerous vision and behavior of people who support Donald Trump.”

Despite these polarizing remarks, Hillary Clinton’s husband, who won the Rust Belt in 1992 and 1996, fought right up to the end to convince working-class voters that the Democratic nominee, who never once campaigned in Wisconsin, cared about them.

He failed.

Bill Clinton’s best efforts could not catch the Trump campaign, which hammered away relentlessly on key economic issues, including lost jobs, falling wages and outsourcing.

Hillary Clinton went on to lose in a big way to her Republican opponent, who, to the shock of politicos and media, repeated Bill Clinton’s electoral success in the Rust Belt.

In 1992, the former Arkansas governor captured Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The only Rust Belt state Clinton failed to take that year was Indiana. In 1996, he performed exactly the same in that region of America.

In 2016, President-elect Trump captured Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana Iowa and Wisconsin. The billionaire business is almost certain to take Michigan.

Of the Rust Belt states, Hillary Clinton won only Illinois.

By early Wednesday morning, it became clear that Trump was going to be the next president of the United States. Clinton conceded the election in a private phone call shortly after the Associated Press called Pennsylvania for Trump.

In retrospect, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told the Times this week, the Clinton campaign really should have expanded its focus to “rural white pockets” in states like Pennsylvania, something he said he encouraged them to do. He was also ignored.

“We had the resources to do both,” Rendell said. “The campaign — and this was coming from Brooklyn — didn’t want to do it.”

Though it’s uncertain whether the 2016 election will be the end of Clintonism, it certainly seems to be the end of Hillary Clinton’s White House aspirations.

“No. She doesn’t run again,” Felipe Gutierrez, who sits on Hillary Clinton’s National Finance Committee, flatly stated when the Washington Examiner asked if he thinks she would consider a third run. “We did all we could do.”

A Clinton volunteer who campaigned on her behalf in California, Texas and Florida, told the Examiner separately that 2016 was her last chance, and added there’s no future for her in the Oval Office after this.

Speaking in a tone reserved for funeral homes, he lamented Trump’s unprecedented success, and groaned as he contemplated the magnitude of the Democratic candidate’s stunning defeat this week.

Hillary Clinton, whose White House ambitions were thwarted in 2008 by a half-term senator from Chicago, and then again in 2016 by a former reality show host, will never, ever sit behind the Resolute Desk, the volunteer stated with mournful certainty.

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