Hillary Clinton in hot pursuit of that elusive common touch

The former US secretary of state’ s informal campaign has surprised political pundits

Three’s company: Hillary Clinton’s early pit stops and political events have been aimed at showcasing her everyday side,  far more so than she ever did during the 2008 campaign. Photograph: The New York Times

Three’s company: Hillary Clinton’s early pit stops and political events have been aimed at showcasing her everyday side, far more so than she ever did during the 2008 campaign. Photograph: The New York Times

 

What do you do if your last White House run ended in failure, with you relegated into third place in the crucial Iowa primary and criticised as a distant, detached candidate?

If you are Hillary Clinton, you announce your 2016 presidential bid while driving 1,000 miles across America in a customised Chevrolet van nicknamed Scooby.

The move took political pundits by surprise. For 24 hours journalists scoured Twitter and highways for any trace of the former first lady.

Then she surfaced in the tiny Iowa town of Monticello on Tuesday, meeting a handful of students and teachers. Similar low-key meetings followed.

Apart from a dig at the high salaries paid to hedge-fund managers, the first week brought little in the way of policy or vision. “Before I roll out my policies, I want to hear from people on the front lines,” said Clinton.

The game plan is clear. This time around Clinton is going to be shaking hands and kissing as many babies as she can find, while her advisers try to make sure voters meet the real Hillary – not the Washington insider who lost out to Barack Obama in 2008.

Folksy vibe

The strategy is the opposite of the Republican hopefuls, such as Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, who are using big events and foreign trips to give themselves a presidential aura.

Hillary, as the New York Times noted, is simply “trying to look normal”.

The problem is not new. Documents released recently show White House staffers grappling with the issue when her husband was president.

“Few Americans think of you in personal terms (warm, caring, funny, kind, maternal) or have a sense of your deep love of children,” said one.

So it was no surprise to see photographs of granddaughter Charlotte – now six months old – appear last weekend.

Her daughter Chelsea is also on the cover of Elle magazine. Inside she is interviewed on beauty, motherhood and the need for a female president.

The message is clear. Clinton may have served as first lady and as secretary of state, but she is also a mother and a grandmother.

Will it work? Already analysts wonder whether she is over-correcting. And sceptics note that, without an opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination, the contest still has the feel of a coronation.

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