Hillary Rodham Clinton recently declared her bid for the Democratic nomination, and the polls indicate that it is her job to lose. As a former first lady, senator, and secretary of state, Americans have had a steady dose of Clinton in the public sphere. At this point, only three percent of Americans have not heard of her, and the campaign is looking to capitalize on name recognition by spreading a populist message.
In comparing her campaign launch videos, there is a stark difference between her 2008 and 2016 campaign tone. In 2008, Clinton introduced herself by noting her positions in office and declaring herself as “In it to win.” Now, in the 2016 campaign, her video does not mention her accolades or accomplishments in office, but rather it seeks to portray her as an advocate for the people, this time saying, “I’m on the road to win your vote.” It remains to be seen exactly how she will differ from her Democratic challengers, though she has channeled the middle class and trade agreement speculation from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s platform. Clinton has also courted Hispanic voters, promising a clearer path to citizenship and more executive action from her administration on immigration.
In recent weeks, it has become apparent that the association with the Clinton family foundation may cause headaches for the campaign. There have been multiple instances of questionable benefits and contributions, along with controversial ties with business and international partners. Many of these allegations were recently put in the national spotlight following the disappearance of email correspondence during her time as secretary of state. The State Department referred to her use of personal email to conduct professional business as “unacceptable.” The fallout from these claims and allegations will play out over the course of the upcoming 18-month campaign, however, if Clinton’s initial reaction is any indication, she will turn any negative attention into fuel for her fire.
Responding to Peter Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash, which turned attention to a Russian uranium deal orchestrated during her time as secretary of state, the campaign sent out an email to donors which called the accusations baseless and circumstantial, and then asked for donations. The majority of Clinton’s money will not be raised by middle class voters contributions, but instead will rely on contributions from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc, JP Morgan Chase, and the like through carefully arranged Super PACs and bundling. This reality will surely be a focal point during the campaign for progressive voters wary of crony capitalism connections.
Looking forward, the campaign will continue portraying the candidate as a champion for the working class and everyday Americans, while raising an unprecedented amount of campaign finance contributions. This is a delicate balance, but one with which she is familiar and comfortable.
Democratic sources have indicated that Clinton is aiming to be more bold on issues important to Americans, including mass incarceration, immigration, foreign policy and campaign finance laws. It seems that this time around, the Clinton camp is not reacting to the day-to-day news cycle, but rather seeking to influence it by taking a stand on these issues.
Capitalizing on name recognition will play a key role in drumming up support for the 2016 Clinton campaign, but it may be difficult to separate her new, bold platform of ideals from the face with which Americans are now so familiar. As it stands now, the campaign has held up to the initial punches thrown and it seems as long as Clinton stays in the news the cash will continue flowing.
By Frederick Bates
Photo courtesy of Marc Nozell – Creativecommons Flickr License