Clinton taking different tack for new campaign

Clinton taking different tack for new campaign
Mrs Hillary Clinton announcing her presidential bid in a video unveiled on Sunday. None of the 38 other people in the clip - which included single mothers, same-sex couples and Asian Americans - talked about her.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton may have been just confirming the worst-kept secret in American politics by announcing her White House run, but the brief video she used to launch her campaign still made a splash when it was unveiled on Sunday.

The clip, just over two minutes long, was notable for several reasons - its large and diverse cast, its sole emphasis on middle-class Americans and just how little it focused on the candidate.

None of the 38 other people in the video - which included single mothers, same-sex couples, Asian Americans and Hispanics - talked about Mrs Clinton. They spoke only about themselves, offering no praise for the former first lady.

In fact, the name "Hillary Clinton" is not uttered a single time.

Mrs Clinton makes an appearance only towards the end to announce that she is running for president again and wants to fight for the American middle class.

"Everyday Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion, so you can do more than just get by - you can get ahead and stay ahead," she said.

And that was the sum total of policy mentioned in the clip. There was no talk of her track record in government as secretary of state or senator.

If anything, she appeared to be secondary to the video. It was a stark contrast not just to the launch videos of the two Republicans who have begun their campaigns, but also to the one she used to announce her first shot at the White House in 2007.

Then, her video had consisted entirely of her seated in her Washington, DC, home laying out her priorities and vision.

In style and substance, it is clear Mrs Clinton is trying to avoid the mistakes of the 2007 campaign that appeared to position her as an inevitable candidate and failed to latch onto the mood for change in the country.

Sunday's video, which quickly racked up 1.5 million views, also took pains to make clear that Mrs Clinton does not have next year's election sewn up, despite her domination of current polls.

"I'm hitting the road to earn your vote, because it's your time, and I'm hoping you'll join me on this journey," she said.

The video marks a further step in her campaign team's attempt to dispel her reputation of being aloof and out of touch.

In the lead-up to the announcement, the team had also sought to try to bring out her softer side, emphasising her experiences as a mother and new grandmother.

Just days earlier, she released an epilogue to her 2014 memoir that was dominated by how she felt when her daughter Chelsea gave birth to Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky last September.

She wrote: "When Chelsea was born, I was full of nerves... As a new grandmother, however, there is nothing but joy. It's probably the world's best job.

"You get all the happiness of doting on a tiny child as she begins exploring the world but without the responsibilities or anxieties of being a parent."

While analysts agree that pushing her softer side is a worthwhile strategy for a figure who has struggled to be relatable, it is not yet clear if the rebranding will work.

Professor David Coates, from the department of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, said: "Hillary looks unbeatable in her pursuit of the Democratic nomination, but all the Democrats I know are worried - they are not enthusiastic.

"They think she is too centrist, and that she comes with too much baggage. They worry the baggage might let a Republican in when we move from the primaries to the election, and that even if she wins, she will prove too moderate at home and too hawkish abroad."

The entry of the highest-profile candidate has raised the temperature for a presidential race that is just beginning. A handful of Mrs Clinton's possible opponents wasted no time in attacking the Democratic front runner.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who announced his candidacy three weeks ago, released a video saying Mrs Clinton "represents the failed policies of the past".

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a Republican and the biggest name yet to officially declare his bid, similarly attacked her foreign policy track record in a new video.

"We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies," he said.

Other candidates in the race

Other candidates who have officially declared, all Republican:

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, 44

According to an average of polls done by RealClear- Politics, he trails Mrs Clinton by 10 percentage points.

Among Republicans, he stands in third place, with just 10.5 per cent support.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, 52

Polls show Dr Paul trailing Mrs Clinton by about 7 percentage points. He is just behind Mr Cruz in the Republican Party, with support of 9.8 per cent

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, 43

Announced his candidacy yesterday. He is 7.8 percentage points behind Mrs Clinton.

 

jeremyau@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 14, 2015.
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