Your Sunday long read this week is from NY Magazine's Jason Zengerle, as he reminds us that Hillary is going to have to work to win in 2016, and she's not very good at it.
For much of the Obama presidency, there has been a general sense of calm among Democrats about their chances to retain the White House. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State was distinguished, if not especially consequential. Her favorability ratings hovered around all-time highs. It wasn’t just that her nomination seemed a foregone conclusion; given the dysfunction of the Republican Party and the demographic changes in the American electorate, the race seemed hers to lose. It was hard to find a Democratic operative not in fairly high spirits.
Then, over the past few weeks, the country watched as Clinton dealt with the fallout from the revelation that she used a personal email server while heading up the State Department. Her fiercest critics have charged that she employed the private email system to skirt government transparency laws and, in the process, endangered national security. Her supporters worry that, even if Clinton’s private email was legal and innocent, it was a self-inflicted error that has needlessly handed her enemies yet another cudgel to wield against her. But the glee and regret among Republicans and Democrats have been most pronounced over the disastrous press conference Clinton held at the United Nations to try to put the matter to rest, which served to remind them of something many had forgotten: what an abominable candidate she can be.
Standing in front of a tapestry replica of Picasso’s Guernica, she was testy, brittle, and, above all, unpersuasive — failing to demonstrate the most elementary political skills, much less those learned at Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie. “She read her prepared remarks like a high-school student,” marvels Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster who’s been a close observer of Clinton for more than two decades. “She looked down at her notes, then she looked up to the left, down at her notes, then up to the right. Almost the entire time, she avoided making eye contact with anyone.” A prominent Democratic operative is still horrified by the spectacle. “She came off as defensive and artificially put-off,” he says. Another Democratic operative says, “I’m a huge Hillary Clinton fan. I hope desperately she’s the next president of the United States, because I think she’d be a great president. But after that press conference, I do have major concerns about her ability as a campaigner and to get elected.”
The performance made a host of other recent Clinton missteps — seemingly minor at the time — suddenly loom larger in the minds of anxious Democrats. There was her strangely vapid Foggy Bottom memoir,Hard Choices, which racked up middling sales, and her obvious rust in the interviews she did to promote it. There was her continued buck-raking on the paid-speaking circuit, which seemed tone-deaf, if not downright greedy, for someone about to embark on a presidential campaign. And there was her hard-to-figure delay in assembling a staff for the campaign, so that, when news of the hidden emails broke, she had no infrastructure to defend her and instead had to rely on a hodgepodge of veteran freelancers like James Carville and Lanny Davis, whose reappearance made the latest Clinton scandal feel exhaustingly familiar. Democrats may be constitutionally prone to hysteria, but even so, the whiplash of these few weeks has been notable. Now, days before Clinton’s official announcement that she is, once again, in it to win it, some in her party are on edge.
Bill Clinton could run as a populist and pull it off. Hillary is utterly terrible at it and it's how Barack Obama beat her in 2008. So unless Hillary starts running the kind of campaign that people badly want Elizabeth Warren to run, she's in real trouble. Yes, she has better people now (having ditched the odious and racist corporate scuzzbag Mark Penn as her 2008 manager), but she has to be a better candidate too, and so far she's nowhere near where she's going to have to be.
"Vote for me because I'm Hillary Clinton" failed in 2008, and it definitely won't work in the age of Snapchat.