The Hillary-Clinton-for-president campaign is coming. For real, this time.
The furor created by the exact date and time Clinton would announce her candidacy speaks to the total and complete impossibility of Clinton carrying off a “going small” strategy that she and her team seem set on pursuing.
I absolutely get the logic behind the strategy. Clinton ran as “Hillary Clinton” in 2008, to her detriment. Her campaign seemed to believe that voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire would vote for her simply because of her political celebrity. They believed that Clinton didn’t need to do the grip and grin sort of campaigning that other candidates did because she was a beloved member of the first family of Democratic politics.
Unsurprisingly to everyone but those in the Clinton campaign, it didn’t work. Clinton came off as aloof and entitled — two very bad character traits for someone running for president. People had no sense of why she wanted the job or how hard she was willing to work to get it. (Sidebar: One of the reasons her tearing-up moment in New Hampshire in 2008 was so powerful was because it drove home for many voters that she did actually care deeply about the race.)
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Because all campaigns are in ways large and small reactions to the campaigns that came before them, you can understand why the “go small” approach makes sense to the Clintons this time around. According to Democratic strategists and advisers familiar with her plans, the go-slow, go-small strategy plays to her strengths, allowing her to meet voters in intimate settings where her humor, humility and policy expertise can show through.
And yet, it’s almost certainly an impossibility for Clinton and her campaign to truly go small — for reasons almost entirely out of her control. Clinton is the biggest non-incumbent front-runner to be a party’s presidential nominee in the modern era of politics. She is one of the most famous politicians in the country, if not the world. She is part of one of the most famous families in the country, if not the world.
“Going small” is as hard for Clinton to do as it would be for Taylor Swift. Let’s say, for example, that T-Swift just wanted to play a few intimate gigs for her most loyal fans with no publicity. No matter what she did to keep it small, word would leak out that Taylor Swift was playing at some hole-in-the-wall club in fill-in-the-blank town. A mob scene — fans, media, assorted gawkers — would immediately assemble. Intimacy gone.
The same goes for Clinton. Because of who she is and where she stands in the presidential race, she will be followed around by an ever-present local, national and international media horde. Wherever she goes, there will be crowds who just want to see her — take a picture of her, shoot a Vine of her, tweet about her, SnapChat about her. No matter how small Clinton tries to make the campaign, it will always be big — because of who she is.
That is not to say that Clinton can’t more effectively show voters than she did in 2008 that she is running to help them, that her campaign is centered on what they want rather than what she thinks they want. Clinton will do everything she can to make that the central message of this race and, because of that focus, she'll likely do a better job of conveying that message than she did seven years ago.
But, the idea of Clinton going small is a fallacy. It cannot be done.
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