I make no secret about the fact that I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter. It’s not that I don’t like Bernie Sanders, I just have my doubts about his chances to win the general election and how effective he can be as president. Seeing as 2016 is one of the most crucial elections in many of our lifetimes, I’m not overly eager to support a candidate who 41 percent of Democrats have said they wouldn’t support in a recent Gallup poll because he’s a self-described socialist.
But even as a Clinton supporter, I’m not blind to her flaws. In fact, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with her campaign thus far. Not because I doubt her as a candidate, but in politics, perception matters – and the perception of her as a candidate has taken a beating lately.
Now, that’s not entirely her fault. As Sanders supporters have become more emotionally invested (and sometimes flat-out hostile and irrational), it’s natural that they’re going after her with the same tenacity that Republicans have for years. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I could write an article filled with nothing but comments I’ve come across from Sanders supporters about Clinton and you would think they were taken straight from Republicans.
While I’ll continue to put my support behind Hillary, I think she needs to make some changes to her campaign – and soon. Otherwise, even if she wins the nomination (which is still very likely), the perception of her is going to be so tarnished that it’s going to make a once slam-dunk candidate very vulnerable next year.
That’s Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem right now – perception. Literally nothing “new” has come out about her over the last year. It’s the same nonsense Republicans have been pushing for years. Even the email “scandal” they keep pushing is something almost no one really cares about. Yet, despite the fact that nothing has really changed (except she’s actually come out far more liberal than many had thought she would on several issues) liberals continue to turn against her.
So here are five changes I believe Clinton must make to her campaign if she wants to gain back her momentum.
1. She has to come off more personable: Listen, Hillary Clinton isn’t Bill. She’s never been the most warm or personable person in politics. She’s far more “business” than “personal” – and there’s nothing really wrong with that. I’ve never been someone who “wants to have a beer” with the president. I just want an effective leader.
That being said, she has to stop coming off like she’s afraid to answer questions without being prepped beforehand. She wasn’t always like this. She’s never been the type of speaker President Obama or Bill Clinton is, but she’s never been this robotic. I’m not sure who’s telling her to be this “stiff” but they’re giving her horrible advice. One of the biggest contrasts I’m seeing is that when she says something, it’s cold – even if what she’s saying is great. Again, it’s about perception.
2. Embrace the press: This one is tough, because hammering Clinton is good for business. While I’ve never been a big believer in “gotcha questions” (though they do exist), it’s clear many members of the media are fighting to ask her questions not because they want to hear what she says about an issue, but because they’re hoping to get their next “shocking headline.”
But at the same time, “freezing out” the press just appears shady. Even though I understand why she’s not the biggest fan of the media, blowing them off doesn’t help either. She needs to take a page from President Obama’s playbook and just hit back at the media if they ask a question that’s clearly meant to try to lure her into giving them fodder for an anti-Hillary article.
3. Expand her speaking audiences: It’s been rumored that the main reason why Clinton is holding many of her speeches at smaller venues is to appear more like “one of the people.” Look, that’s not going to happen. She’s a multimillionaire, a former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. One of the biggest perceptions that’s helped Sanders build momentum is the liberal blogs bragging about the big crowds he’s drawing in.
Now, does any of this really matter? Well, it goes back to perception. When your strongest opponent is speaking in front of 8,000 people and you, the presumptive frontrunner, are speaking in front of 2,000 – it looks bad. If Clinton wanted to, she could fill large venues with massive crowds. Catering to smaller crowds is only making her look less popular than Sanders, which isn’t true. While her numbers have taken a slight dip, she’s still crushing him in national polls.
If I were advising Clinton, I would insist that she needs to build up her “rock star” vibe again. A big step toward accomplishing that is seeing the headline, “Clinton attracts 15,000 at speech in (fill in the state).”
4. She needs to take command of her liberal message: I’m amazed at how many liberals I come across who honestly believe she’s no more liberal than someone like Jeb Bush. While she’s clearly not as far-left as Sanders, she a lot more “left” than many liberals seem to think she is. The biggest reason for that is she’s not out in front of her message, pushing the fairly left-wing agenda on which she’s running.
Once again, it’s about perception. If you’re running on universal health care; women’s rights; campaign finance reform; immigration reform; reducing (or eliminating) the costs of getting an education at a public university; combating climate change; and regulating Wall Street – yet many on “your side” seem completely unaware of all of that – that’s called being ineffective at getting your message out.
5. She needs to stop campaigning “not to lose”: I’ve never – ever – been a fan of the tactic “play not to lose.” Sure, it’s safe – but it’s also weak. Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination. That being said, leaning against that lead, hoping it doesn’t shrink too much before next summer, is a piss-poor strategy for someone who wants to be President of the United States.
Hillary needs to get her ass out there, take charge and be the person she’s been most of her political career. It seems as if the people running her campaign have basically told her to “play it safe and ride this thing out,” hoping her big lead holds. That might ultimately work, but it’s not doing her any favors to energize the people who’ve begun to doubt her ability to be a leader.
Win or lose, I’d always rather see someone “play to win” than simply build a lead and sit back hoping not to lose.
Look, this isn’t meant to appear as if I’m “losing faith.” Again, a lot of this is just about perception rather than reality. Like I said, nothing about Hillary Clinton has changed (outside of her actually becoming more liberal) since this time last year when she was overwhelmingly popular among liberals. And while her numbers remain high, there’s no denying that there are quite a few who have lost some of that enthusiasm about her they once had.
And while I’ll never be in a position to directly advise her, if I could, these are five of the things I’d tell her she needs to do ASAP. In politics, perception is often reality, and right now the way she’s been running her campaign hasn’t given off the best perception to many voters who she’s gong to need if she ever wants to become president.
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