Friday, July 15, 2016

Has Hillary Finally Found Her Voice?

Living in Virginia, a "battleground state," we are already seeing plenty of presidential campaign ads, although most to date - other than a foul and dishonest ad being run by the NRA - are for Democrat Hillary Clinton.  So far, the ads have been first class and effective, focusing in large part on Donald Trump's unfitness for office, especially the presidency.  With the Democrat convention not far off and providing an opportunity to counter whatever batshitery - and potential circus - that takes place in Cleveland, Hillary needs to come up with a knock them dead speech.  Hopefully, she rises to the challenge.  A piece in Politico looks at the process for a candidate who (like myself) doesn't truly like public speaking notwithstanding her command of the facts.  Here are highlights:
Hillary Clinton was about to get clobbered in the New Hampshire primary, and her campaign still didn’t have a message explaining why she was the right person for the job.
The entire episode illustrated Clinton’s paradox: on the one hand, she’s a deeply involved candidate who trusts her own instincts. But on the other, she still struggles, after all these years, when it comes to messaging — and remains almost hostile to the idea of a narrative that Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and even Donald Trump seem to craft so naturally.
But after Schwerin and Sullivan pushed back, telling her they believed “Breaking Down Barriers” was her best chance at turning things around, and Chelsea piped up and took their side, a skeptical Clinton agreed that if Schwerin wrote it up into a speech, she would give it a shot in her concession speech that night.
Today, campaign officials credit that framework with stabilizing the campaign during the darkest days of the primary — and even Clinton eventually agreed to make it her rubric as the primary headed toward the South.
In truth, the concept was fine but not great. “Breaking Down Barriers didn’t set the country on fire, but it gave us a construct and argument,” said a top Clinton official. “It was a way of focusing ourselves.”
But it’s also deeper than just a speechwriting problem — it's about how the most experienced person to ever run for the White House continues to struggle with one of the most basic parts of the job: committing to a message that helps establish a general sense of affection from the electorate.
Clinton is fortunate in that the problem is diminished in this year’s general election — campaigning as the anti-Trump has quickly consolidated Democratic support over the past six weeks. And she has connected, at moments, with the history-making aspect of her run, speaking emotionally about the influence of her mother, Dorothy Rodham.
But the struggle continues as she tries to find her voice — one day preaching a mantra of “love and kindness,” the next positioning herself as a street fighter. And it falls on Schwerin, Sullivan and their speechwriting team, whose daily assignment is to craft speeches for a reluctant candidate who would feel more comfortable giving a policy seminar.
Now Clinton confronts one of the biggest speeches of her campaign to date: the convention address, where she will accept the party nomination. Democrats close to the campaign said she can probably slide by with a paint-by-numbers anti-Trump screed. But they’re hoping she is able to do something more — to articulate a message that makes her something more than "likeable enough."
But even the more methodical and wonky Clinton seems to understand the need for something bigger than herself, and beyond dry policy details, on convention night.
Ahead of her speech on the night she clinched the Democratic nomination, for instance, Clinton told Schwerin to capture some of what she saw on rope lines across the country: fathers bringing their daughters to witness history. "Bigger," was her main feedback, draft after draft. She wanted the speech to to stand apart from any standard primary night victory speech. It was Schwerin who suggested using her mother, Dorothy Rodham, as the emotional core of the address, which Clinton latched onto.
The general election slogan, “Stronger Together,” will be the binding theme of her convention address, aides said. The challenge for Schwerin in the coming weeks will be how to put meat on those bones.
“Hillary’s challenge is to make ‘stronger together’ more than a bumper sticker or a tagline for an ad,” Favreau said. “She has to own it. She has to make it hers. And that means vividly and passionately painting a picture of what ‘stronger together’ looks like for America. ‘Change We Can Believe In’ by itself was nothing to write home about. It only worked because Obama was always ready with specific examples, policies, and stories that helped illustrate what change really meant.”

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