Why Clinton’s campaign wants us to think we don’t really know her

GWEN IFILL: Now joining me for analysis this Politics Monday, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR, who is in Iowa tonight, waiting, waiting, waiting on Hillary Clinton.

Tamara, let's start by talking about Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton, Mrs. Clinton. What is the goal for her rollout, this very interesting kind of Web-driven rollout?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, first she did the Web video. She's now on a van tour of America, making her way out.

We would note that she is probably not driving. The Secret Service is most likely driving. She says she hasn't driven since 1996. But what she's trying to do is say, hey, I'm just like the rest of you. I'm relatable. I'm trying hard, I'm going to work for every single vote.

Her campaign is aiming to go small at first, small events, intimate settings, no big arenas, no big, cheering rounds, but just sort of Hillary Clinton unplugged, at least initially, much like her listening tour in New York when she first ran for Senate there.

GWEN IFILL: Amy, let's talk about what you think she was trying to accomplish with this very — it wasn't as warm and fuzzy as four years — as the 2008 video, but it was still very much — very little about her and a lot about other people.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: And that's exactly the point, was she wants to make sure and make very clear that she doesn't see this as her legacy or her birthright or something that she's going to get handed.

Her campaign talks a lot about earning the vote, about how she's going to work to meet people. It was telling that the first part of this video was all other people talking about her lives. We didn't hear anything about Hillary Clinton's life.

Now, she is going to…

GWEN IFILL: We know a lot about Hillary Clinton.

AMY WALTER: We know a lot about Hillary Clinton's life.

And we're going to hear a different perspective on her life. Her campaign likes to tell you she's the most famous person that nobody really knows. I have a hard time believing that to be true, but they're going to try to reimagine Hillary Clinton.

GWEN IFILL: Well, let's talk about how the Republicans will imagine her. And we saw an explosion of Web responses this weekend, if you can call three or four an explosion.

And one of them came from Rand Paul, the senator who announced last week that he is running for president. Let's take a little — a little bit of that ad that he posted right after Hillary Clinton announced.

NARRATOR: Hillary Clinton represents the worst of the Washington machine arrogance, the arrogance of power, corruption and cover-up, conflicts of interest and failed leadership with tragic consequences. The Washington machine is destroying the American treatment.

GWEN IFILL: Well, Tamara, there's the flip side of the argument about the new Hillary Clinton. And what Rand Paul is trying to say and what a lot of the Republicans have tried to say is, there's an old Hillary Clinton we want to remind you about.

TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely.

And I think there are many American voters who have sort of a visceral reaction to Hillary Clinton that goes back to the '90s. And what Rand Paul, what the RNC with ads, they're doing, what they're trying to remind everyone of is, you know, this is the — remember the old Hillary Clinton?  Remember the one maybe that you didn't like as much?

They're trying to remind voters of that Hillary Clinton. And Rand Paul has promised he's going to run against her. And he's out of the gate running against her.

GWEN IFILL: Go ahead.

AMY WALTER: Well, I thought it was also interesting in the piece beforehand looking at Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and some of the other Republican candidates. It's clear what they want to make this race about too, which is foreign policy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came into this election — comes into this election, actually, as the best prepared on foreign policy of anybody in the field.

GWEN IFILL: Not a mention of it in that video.

AMY WALTER: And she didn't mention of — it at all.

There's something to be said about the fact that she also stands in the shadow of a president and his handling of foreign policy, which right now is, most Americans, a majority of Americans now say that they think he's not doing a particularly good job. She also obviously has some of her own controversies as secretary of state.

The economy, meanwhile, doing a little bit better, and she's hoping to keep the focus on that.

GWEN IFILL: As we sit here East Coast time, Marco Rubio, senator — freshman senator from Florida, is announcing he's running for president. He told donors about it earlier today. He's been saying, watch, watch what's coming for several days now.

Let's hear a little bit of what he said just a few moments ago.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Now, look, at the turn of the 19th century, a generation of Americans harnessed the power of the Industrial Age and they transformed this country into the leading economy in the world, and the 20th century became the American century.

Well, now the time has come for our generation to lead the way towards a new American century.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL: Tamara, there were a lot of code words there, our generation, new, youth. He was clearly emphasizing how distinctly different he is from everybody else who is in the race so far.

TAMARA KEITH: Yes.

I mean, he's not just talking about Hillary Clinton there. He's also talking about Jeb Bush, his mentor, his political mentor. He's not coming out and saying, no more boomer presidents, but that seems to be what he's implying.

His other message is really — that he's — Marco Rubio is telling his story as an American story. And I have seen the remarks. Towards the — the prepared remarks. And towards the end, he says, you know, the son of a bartender and a maid could make it in America and he wants people to be able to live that American dream again.

So he's in some ways very similar to President Obama, making his personal story an American story and selling himself that way.

GWEN IFILL: So, Amy, to the degree that Hillary does not want to make this biographical yet, that's what Marco Rubio is really trading on at this point.

AMY WALTER: Right. He's young. He's charismatic. He's the parent of immigrants.

GWEN IFILL: Child of.

AMY WALTER: Child of. Sorry. Child of immigrants.

He's non-white. He's a first-term senator. Does any of this sound familiar?

AMY WALTER: And that's going to, I think, be one of the challenges for Marco Rubio going forward within his own party and without, which is the sense of, boy, we tried that one time. We had a young, charismatic person come in talking about change. We don't feel really good about where things are headed now. Do we want to take another chance on another young person?

So, his challenge is going to be to show how different he is from Barack Obama, even though he shares a similar biography.

GWEN IFILL: Tamara, I know you're in Iowa tonight waiting for Hillary Clinton to arrive. She was spotted at a Chipotle in Ohio on her way in her van. Everyone's waited with bated breath.

But I wonder, have other Democrats been there already?  Is there other activity on the ground in Iowa beyond Hillary Clinton's anticipated arrival?

TAMARA KEITH: Yes.

So, Virginia — former Virginia senator Jim Webb, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, they have both been here in recent days. They have been going to events.

They have been well-received, though one activist here told me that they have been going to events that were already happening. They haven't been throwing their own events. And they're saying that a real test will be how many people show up when Martin O'Malley or Jim Webb has a stand-alone event.

And so it's not really clear how well they're actually performing here, whether they're getting any traction. And, obviously, Hillary Clinton coming to town is going to change the dynamic significantly.

GWEN IFILL: Amy, how much of this getting out now, getting out front now — and we bring it up every week — is about money and trying to position yourself with the donors, who Marco Rubio called first, for instance, today?

AMY WALTER: I think that was a very important point.

And especially for the lesser-known candidates, it's telling that it's Ted Cruz and Rand Paul that have announced. It's not Jeb Bush, who — he can take his — a little more time in announcing.

But we're also in an era where we find that individual fund-raising, while it's still important, is not the end-all be-all that it used to be. The fact that even Ted Cruz now has a super PAC set up apart from his campaign that is pledging $31 million says that, you know, when you get into a race and how much money you are going to raise before the summer is not always going to be definitive — is not as definitive as it once was.

GWEN IFILL: Who is up next?  We have got — once a week.

AMY WALTER: I have also heard — we should.

Who is going to be next?  I don't know. Ben Carson, I think, is also going to be coming up soon enough in Detroit, I think, in early May. But we will probably hear a couple others before…

GWEN IFILL: We will talk about it all next week on Politics Monday.

Hey, Tamara, if I were you, I would go to a coffee shop, a Chipotle or a diner tonight if you're looking for Senator Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL: Thanks a lot.

TAMARA KEITH: Gas stations. I'm headed…

GWEN IFILL: Gas stations. Thank you.

You can follow the 2016 race with us online, where you will find guides to each of the candidates as they enter the fray. That's on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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