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Eye On Candidates
September 8, 2015

Clinton Campaign Tries to Turn Over a New Leaf for Fall Campaign

With the summer unofficially over and autumn officially arriving in two weeks, the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is hoping to put as many of its troubles behind it with some modest recalibrations, according to multiple media accounts. The most recent polling out of Iowa and New Hampshire shows why the campaign feels change is needed, as Politico reports:

Poll: Sanders leads Clinton in New Hampshire, closing in Iowa

Bernie Sanders has a solid lead over Hillary Clinton among New Hampshire Democrats five months ahead of the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary, and the Vermont senator is also gaining on Clinton in Iowa, according to NBC News/Marist polls released on Sunday.

In New Hampshire, Sanders had the support of 49 percent of Democrats when Joe Biden's name was not included as a choice, with Clinton in second with 38 percent support….

In Iowa, Clinton's lead over Sanders has narrowed significantly. The former secretary of state now leads Sanders, 48 percent to 37 percent, down from a 29-point lead in an NBC News/Marist poll earlier this summer. (With Biden included as an option, Clinton earns 38 percent, compared to 27 percent for Sanders and 20 percent for the vice president.)

There’s little talk of major changes in the Clinton camp, simply some shifts in messaging and trying to emphasize some of Clinton’s personality that her strategists feel has been overshadowed so far, according to The New York Times:

There will be no more flip jokes about her private email server. There will be no rope lines to wall off crowds, which added to an impression of aloofness. And there will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious….

In extensive interviews by telephone and at their Brooklyn headquarters last week, Mrs. Clinton’s strategists acknowledged missteps — such as their slow response to questions about her email practices — and promised that this fall the public would see the sides of Mrs. Clinton that are often obscured by the noise and distractions of modern campaigning….

Other changes are in store for the campaign. After a focus group in New Hampshire last month revealed that voters wanted to hear directly from Mrs. Clinton about her email practices, she has sought to offer a more contrite tone, though her detractors say she is still too grudging. (In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Mrs. Clinton said she did not need to apologize for using a private email server. “What I did was allowed,” she said. “It was allowed by the State Department. The State Department has confirmed that.”)

While Mrs. Clinton’s central message will remain focused on addressing income inequality and lifting the middle class, she is scrapping the phrase “everyday Americans,” which advisers said was confusing and did not resonate. (One compared it to the Walmart slogan, “Everyday low prices.”)

Mrs. Clinton will still invoke the joy brought into her life by her granddaughter, Charlotte, but, given the child’s obvious advantages and privilege, will speak more broadly about building a better future for all Americans’ children and grandchildren.

None of these changes suggest radical overhauls or a significant effort to “re-introduce” Clinton to the American voting public, but her team thinks it will be enough to put her back on track to win the nomination in convincing fashion. One element of her campaign that looks like it may be getting more attention is the historic nature of a possible Hillary Clinton presidency, described by Politico:

In a state with a history of electing women to its highest offices, and on the 20th anniversary of her famous speech in Beijing, where as first lady she declared “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” Hillary Clinton on Saturday defined the entire economic agenda of her 2016 campaign as a women's issue.

For the Democratic front-runner, the backdrop for her speech had special meaning — this early-voting state is the one where Clinton herself shattered a glass ceiling in 2008 by becoming the first woman to win a presidential primary….

Clinton has been embracing her gender since her kickoff rally on Roosevelt Island last June, but the Women for Hillary rally marked the first time she placed her entire domestic and economic agenda in terms of how it affects women’s lives.

The new emphasis on Clinton’s gender is a significant departure from her 2008 campaign:

Longtime Clinton aides could not remember a time during Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid when she embraced running as a woman and women’s issues so openly and unequivocally as she did on Saturday.

On the campaign trail eight years ago, Clinton shied away from explicitly gender-based appeals. “I am not running as a woman,” she often said. “I am running because I believe I am the best-qualified and experienced person.” That strategy failed to fire up female voters — in Iowa, Barack Obama earned more women's votes than Clinton, and Clinton barely exceeded 50 percent of the women’s vote overall in the Democratic primary….

The article notes the message syncs well with the Democrats “Republican war on women” meme, but it could also reflect the Clinton campaign’s decision that in order to replicate the Obama campaign’s 2008 coalition it will need to fire up its own brand of identity politics. Whatever the reasoning, the beginning of the fall campaign season is probably a better time to shift messages than right before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, and this may be Clinton’s last chance to rebuild a comfortable lead over her rivals. The alternative is a hotly contested nomination slugfest, which Clinton would still be favored to win but would probably emerge much more damaged as a candidate than were she to cruise to victory.