Sept. 2015 article
Sept. 8, 2015, "The reinvention of Hillary Clinton almost certainly won’t work," Washington Post, Chris Cillizza
"Hillary Rodham Clinton is pushing the "reset" button. That's the very clear signal her campaign wanted to send over Labor Day weekend with a series of stories -- most notably in The Post and the New York Times -- that offer "candid" quotes from her campaign team about how now is the time for Clinton to show people who she really is.
Here's how the Times put it:
My favorite line, though, is this one: "There will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious."They want to show her humor. The self-effacing kind (“The hair is real, the color isn’t,” she said of her blond bob recently, taking note of Mr. Trump) has played better than her sarcastic retorts, such as when she asked if wiping a computer server was done “with a cloth.”They want to show her heart, like the time she comforted former drug addicts in a school meeting room in New Hampshire.
Here's the thing: This reboot/reinvention/reincarnation/renaissance/reset almost certainly won't work. Because they never do.
Hillary Clinton has been running for or serving in office for the past 15 years. She spent the two decades before that by her husband's side as he rose from Arkansas governor to the presidency. This is not someone who is just getting her sea legs as to what sort of public persona she wants to give off. This is who she is.
Clinton might well be hilarious in private. She might well be affable and enthusiastic. But when the lights go on and Clinton appears in public settings in which reporters and cameras are present, she becomes something else entirely. Guarded. Suspicious. Overly serious.
It's sort of like the kid we all knew who was a dynamite basketball player in practice. He made every three-pointer he took, passed the ball with ease and generally made the game look easy. But put on that uniform and add a crowd, and it was a totally different story. He got tight, shot an airball, forgot the plays....And, no matter what the coaches do/did, there was just no way of translating that practice player into a game-time player.
All of the talk of a Clinton reset reminds me of all the unending assertions by advisers to then-Vice President Al Gore that he was, in private, a hilariously awesome (and awesomely hilarious) guy who everyone loved. "Working closely with Gore's message team since last year, [Naomi] Wolf has encouraged Gore to 'speak from the heart' to connect better with voters, said one strategist." (That quote comes from a November 1999 Washington Post story about Gore bringing in Wolf, a controversial feminist author, as an adviser to his campaign.)
It didn't work. Not until he was fully done with politics did Gore's personality -- as an uber-nerd -- actually come out. For whatever reason, he simply could never translate who he was in private to what he presented to the public.
The Gore-Clinton comparison is telling. Both have spent decades in politics and both have benefited from/labored under famous political last names. And both struggle mightily to "act normal" while wearing the cloak of a politician.
All of this is not to say that the Clinton team's efforts are not a savvy political move. It's clear that Clinton isn't connecting with voters -- or, more aptly, exciting them -- at the moment. Showing more passion and humor is, in theory, the right recipe to fix that problem.
But campaigns always come back to candidates. No matter how great a strategy might be, if a candidate can't sell it, it won't work. (Think of the efforts by Mitt Romney's campaign to sell their candidate as an all-heart do-gooder; Mitt always came across as a wooden business robot instead.)
It's hard for me to imagine that after all of this time in the public eye, Clinton will suddenly unlock the key
to relaxing and showing more of her humanity to voters. At some point, we all are who we are. For Clinton, that's a serious policy mind with a strong resume. The question -- assuming this reboot falls short of its goals -- is whether that's enough for voters next year."
Comment: So far, no Trump resets have taken hold either.