Hillary Clinton has finally found a reset button that works. Two months after launching her campaign for President she is launching it once again this Saturday.
There are now dozens of news stories noting this weekend’s launch on Roosevelt Island in New York. All of them make it sound as if this is the start of something new, not the re-start of something that crashed and burned after two dismal months of media coverage:
- Politico: Bill De Blasio will skip Hillary Clinton’s launch rally
- Time: NYC Mayor to Skip Hillary Clinton Launch Event
- NY Daily News: Mayor de Blasio won’t attend Hillary Clinton’s campaign kickoff event because he’s waiting to hear her larger vision
- NY Observer: Bill de Blasio Won’t Attend Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Kickoff
- Newsday: De Blasio to skip Hillary Clinton campaign-launch rally
- CBS NY: Mayor De Blasio To Skip Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Launch In NYC
- The Hill: NYC Mayor de Blasio skipping Clinton’s presidential launch
On and on it goes. In case you’ve forgotten, here are some of the headlines from a couple months ago when the actual launch happened:
- Time 4/12: Hillary Clinton Launches Second Bid for the White House
- Huffington Post 4/12: Hillary Clinton Launches 2016 Presidential Campaign
- CNN 4/12: Hillary Clinton launches second presidential bid
- USAToday 4/12: Hillary Clinton launches 2016 presidential bid
- Washington Post 4/12: Hillary Clinton launches presidential bid
The real story here is what happened in between launch one and launch two. After appearing at a few tightly managed events with hand-picked Democratic supporters impersonating real Americans, Hillary was hammered by negative stories–ongoing ones about her email server, and new ones about her husband’s speaking fees and her Foundation’s financial connections to companies with business before the State Department.
It got so bad that Hillary began faking conversations to avoid taking any questions. One month into her campaign she had answered a total of 13 questions in 31 days, and several of those were of the “Are you having fun?” variety. Her longest stretch was 27 days without a word to a reporter.
The fact that a slow-build with little interaction with reporters was her campaign’s plan is beside the point. No plan, as they say, survives contact with the enemy. Instead of adapting to new circumstances, Hillary shrank back and dodged the questions.
The result was predictable. Instead of getting a bump from her humble act and letting that lead her into phase 2 of her campaign, polling shows Hillary’s favorability and honesty numbers are down sharply. What was meant to be a crescendo has instead turned into a let’s-start-over-again reset like the one she initiated with Russia as Secretary of State (and look how well that worked out).
It almost goes without saying that no Republican candidate in similar circumstances would be granted the kindness of a do-over from the national media. The narrative in that case would have been about a leading candidate who seemed unprepared to face the press and tough questions. The re-launch would be framed as what-it-is, an attempt to start over by a campaign that has already squandered most of the good will it had in the bank of public opinion. And, don’t forget, none of the questions have been answered by the candidate. That awkward mess is still ahead of her.
A few reporters, like the Atlantic’s Molly Ball, have called the re-launch what it is but, for the most part, the sort of relentless media coverage that offers no quarter to a leading candidate looking weaker than expected out of the gate doesn’t seem to apply to Hillary Clinton.