Clinton Sacks Top Strategist

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- Hillary Rodham Clinton is turning to her communications chief to plan her presidential election strategy after giving the boot to a polarizing top aide because of his work on behalf of a trade agreement that Clinton opposes.

Mark Penn left the campaign Sunday after it was disclosed he had met with representatives of the Colombian government to help promote the trade agreement.

Penn's departure comes as Clinton trails Barack Obama in delegates and the popular vote with a must-win primary in Pennsylvania on April 22 and nine other contests remaining. Clinton will almost certainly end the primary season narrowly behind Obama in the popular vote and pledged delegates.

Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, a former spokesman in John Edwards' campaign, said Penn's departure was needed.

"The truth is, this is the best move the Clinton campaign could have made and something that I imagine most Clinton supporters wished had happened months ago," Kofinis said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Penn, who serves as chief executive of public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, met with Colombian officials March 31 to help craft a strategy to move the Colombian free trade agreement through Congress. Clinton opposes such a deal, and Penn later issued a statement apologizing for the meeting, calling it an "error in judgment."