Hillary Clinton has released her first national TV ad, and the ad’s concept is horrible. Luckily for Clinton, the execution is also very bad.
Imagine for a second that you are on Team Clinton. Your candidate came into this election season as the prohibitive favorite to take the White House. The struggle you have right now is that people don’t really like her. When asked to describe her, the words people use are “liar,” “untrustworthy,” and “secretive.” Her favorability numbers are the worst they have been since her husband left office. She’s embroiled in a major scandal that is dominating the news coverage of her campaign.
You do, however, have one major asset – a ton of cash that you can use to sell your candidate to the American people. With this cash, you can hire the most talented people on earth to really help make America have warm and fuzzy feelings about Hillary again. Your first ad can really help set the tone – reintroduce the public to someone they can feel good about supporting again. So you take all that money and come up with… this?
Well, way to go. Your first ad spends roughly 80% of its time focusing on… a Republican. A Republican you aren’t even running against, for that matter. It also reminds people of the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi on your watch, and that you are involved in a scandal about the use of a private email server. Also, the most dramatic moment of the whole commercial is… a reminder that your poll numbers are currently in the tank.
This is the worst possible introduction to the public at large I have ever seen a candidate make on the national stage. It accomplishes literally nothing that you want your first TV ad to accomplish, and in fact reinforces some of the most damaging stereotypes about Hillary.
Moreover, while Team Hillary clearly thinks that McCarthy’s remarks are a silver bullet against the whole email scandal, no one else in the press or even on her own side finds this particular mode of attack very persuasive. Also, for that matter, it’s flatly inconsistent with the allegedly sincere apologies she offered last week – thus prompting Savannah Guthrie (not known for being the most hardball interview on the planet) to zing Hillary’s McCarthy defense yesterday with a follow up question to which Hillary had no response: “Isn’t saying that this is the Republicans’ fault inconsistent with saying that you’re sorry?”
Don’t take my word for it, though – even Amanda Marcotte isn’t buying what Hillary is selling:
Clinton lost her cool most dramatically when Guthrie pressed her on the issue of the email scandal. Noting that Clinton had both accused Republicans of exaggerating the size of the scandal and had apologized for using private email during her time as Secretary of State, Guthrie dug in. “Which is it?” Guthrie pointedly asked. “If you’re blaming the Republicans, some might wonder how genuine is that apology?”
Clinton attempted a both/and answer, always a tricky thing to pull off in the world of politics. “Well, actually it’s both,” she argued. “I mean, I’m sorry that I made a choice that has resulted in this kind of situation, and I’ve said I’ve made a mistake. Obviously if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t. It was allowed and everybody has confirmed that. But it’s also, as we now know very clearly, the way that the Republicans are trying to bring my– as they admit– poll numbers down.”
This posturing about Republicans is doing Clinton no favors. Of course Republicans are going to seize on this scandal in an effort to defeat her at the polls. Taking umbrage that politicians are being political makes Clinton sound naive at best, defensive and downright bratty at worst.
That Clinton and her team haven’t found a better way to manage this issue is surprising, and not just because they’ve had months to work on it.
It’s surprising only if you don’t realize that Clinton is a bad candidate, and the people around her have displayed terrible political instincts every step of the way.
The luckiest thing for Clinton is that this ad is utterly forgettable and poorly done. Thus, while it strikes all the wrong notes and is likely to negatively impact everyone who sees it, it’s likely to be quickly forgotten and serve mostly as a waste of money as opposed to a lingering weight on the campaign.
The entire episode, however, demonstrates what a paper tiger Hillary really is as a national candidate.