World & Nation

Hillary Clinton is going to try to change how voters see her

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, seen here at a speech last month in Columbia, S.C., plans to hold the first major rally of her presidential campaign Saturday in New York.

(Richard Shiro / Associated Press)

As one of the most recognizable people in the country and a figure in the public eye for a generation, Hillary Rodham Clinton has both the benefits and drawbacks of near-universal name recognition.

Unlike most presidential candidates, Clinton doesn’t have to worry about introducing herself to voters. But many parts of her life history, particularly the political battles and controversies in which she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been involved, are not helpful for a campaign.

And so, with a video touting her history as a “fighter” and a rally Saturday in which she is expected to speak about her mother’s difficult childhood, Clinton is embarking on an effort to change how voters see her.

The video, released Friday by her campaign, traces a selective arc through Clinton’s life story, starting with the work she did early in her career with the Children’s Defense Fund, followed by the speech in 1995 at a United Nations conference on women in Beijing in which she declared that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” The video ends with her tenure as secretary of State.


The presentation focuses heavily on her work for children and families, issues that are priorities for many of Clinton’s core supporters.

Entitled “Fighter,” the video, which clocks in at just under five minutes, uses variations on that word 10 times.

While it avoids some of the messier chapters of Clinton’s life, the video does highlight one notable failure: Clinton’s effort to develop and pass a universal healthcare law during her husband’s first term as president. The subject is presented as a lesson in perseverance.

“We worked really hard; we weren’t successful,” Clinton says as she describes the experience. “You have to get up off the floor, and you keep fighting.”


That narration fits into the overall message of the Clinton campaign, which wants to capitalize on her public image of toughness and skill at political battle -- traits that her opponents have often portrayed as negatives.

Saturday’s speech is designed to dovetail with that focus, with Clinton planning to speak more openly than she has before about her mother’s struggles, which, she says, taught her lessons about perseverance and motivated her career.

After the speech, Clinton plans a several-day swing through states that hold early contests in the nomination process, ending with a fundraising stop in California late next week.

For more on politics and policy, follow @DavidLauter on Twitter. 

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