The Hillary Clinton we saw late last night at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner was the Hillary we knew was there, underneath the overly-managed image. This Hillary was authentic, confident, funny, and found her own style of cool – at times dropping into a conversational tone that rings true. These moments really resonated.
The crowd welcomed her to the stage with a deafening roar, the Hillary people spiritedly waving their blue light-sabers.
The 2016 Democratic candidate for president started off by unifying Democrats, “Did any of you see our debate in Las Vegas? You know, when Republicans debate, they compete to insult each other, demean women, and they double down on trickle-down. Actually, it is reality TV, with a cast of characters who don’t care much about actual reality.”
“But there’s a big difference. When we Democrats debate, you see something,” the former Senator said, giving Democrats exactly what they crave – unity, issues debates, and civility. “You see us tackling the hard issues, looking for solutions to our biggest challenges facing our families and our countries, how are we going to raise wages and create more good jobs, how will we respond to climate change and lift up our economy by investing in clean energy, how will we make college affordable and get parents the paid leave they need, how will we, working with our teachers and our families, help our kids get ready to succeed in school. And how are we going to rein in Wall Street and lift up main street, and how much longer can we wait to stand up to the gun lobby and keep our kids and our communities safe in America.”
Watch here, Part 1:
Clinton gave credit to President Obama, “You see, we Democrats are offering real solutions, like President Obama has done for the past six and a half years.” And then brought her friend Vice President Joe Biden into the fold, just days after he announced he wouldn’t be running.
“And by his side every step of the way has been Vice President Joe Biden. He has fought passionately for middle class families and middle class values.” The former Secretary of State called for applause for Joe, “Let’s show him how much we appreciate Vice President Joe Biden and all he’s done for our country. Let’s give it up for the vice president.”
We got story-teller Clinton, who is just as good at this as anyone her handlers tried to get her to emulate. She started off reminding everyone what a mess Obama inherited from Bush, “You know, I think it’s really important in this election to remember what President Obama inherited. The Republicans would like us all to forget, but he inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month.”
“You know, right after that election, he called me, asked me to come see him in Chicago. I didn’t know why. It turned out he wanted me to be Secretary of State,” she deadpanned. The audience cheered loudly at this, and it was a good reminder of unity possible after hard primaries.
“But when we got there, it was just the two of us, and we were just talking. And he was talking about what he was facing. He said, ‘You know, it’s so much worse than they told us.” We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Nine million Americans ended up losing their jobs. And 5 million lost their homes. And listen to this: $13 trillion of family wealth was wiped away.”
The former Secretary of State delivered this with a grave tone that felt spot on. Not a political point but a point of actual concern.
Clinton continued on, making a case for a Democrat in the White House, which was a nod to her two primary opponents (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Governor Martin O’Malley, both of whom had good, issues-oriented speeches last night) acknowledging that the country would be better off with any of the three of them, “I don’t think President Obama gets the credit he deserves for rescuing our economy from falling into a Great Depression. He saved the auto industry, he imposed tough new rules on Wall Street, and he extended healthcare to 18 million Americans. That’s what you can expect when you vote for Democrats. When there’s a Democrat in the White House, America creates more jobs, the economy grows faster, and deficits are smaller.”
Clinton brought up other uncomfortable facts for Republicans, “And even though they hate it when I say this, recessions happen four times more frequently under Republican presidents. So we cannot afford to go back to the Republicans failed policies.”
She took out the pundits’ and political opponents’ claims easily with three sentences, “Now, I’m not running for my husband’s third term, and I’m not running for Barack Obama’s third term. I’m running for my first term. And I’m running as a proud Democrat.”
There were so many more spot on moments like the last one, where Clinton easily took on a narrative lobbed against her and turned it around. There was this moment, perfectly delivered in her newly-deployed conversational tone:
And, you know, I sometimes wonder whether you sign up to be a Republican candidate for president, they put you into some kind of time machine. And they take you back 50, 70, 100 years, because they keep saying the same out-of-date, out-of-touch things.
And don’t you wonder — don’t you wonder? You know, for people who claim they hate big government, Republicans sure love using government to step in and make decisions for women about our bodies and our rights.
Now, I know — I know when I talk about these things, Republicans say I’m playing the gender card. I know. Well, if talking about equal pay, paid family leave, affordable child care, and women’s health is playing the gender card, deal me in.
This, that I would imagine every woman can relate to:
Now, I’ve been told to stop shouting about ending gun violence. Well, I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting. But I won’t be silenced, and I hope you won’t be either. How many more people have to die before we take action?
And this, where she took out the dynasty narrative with a sharply honed arrow and reminded everyone that the very opportunity Democrats are trying to protect is how she got where she is:
So let me tell you, I’m the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of the most beautiful little girl in the world. And Bill and I will do everything we can to ensure she has every opportunity to succeed in life. But I don’t think you should have to be the granddaughter of a former president to share in the promise of America.
While enthusiasm for Senator Bernie Sanders is strong in Iowa, enthusiasm for Clinton in Iowa is on the rise, according to a new CBS poll which shows Clinton now has a small three point edge over Sanders in Iowa. “Fifty-eight percent of Clinton’s first-choice Iowa voters are enthusiastically supporting her, up from 49 percent a month ago.”
I never bought the earlier media narrative that Clinton was losing anything, because much of this narrative was built on the results of spurious Republican accusations being hurled at her like chimps throwing poop (except this has been shown to be a sign of intelligence in chimps). But it is also true that she hadn’t found her footing yet. She hadn’t found her “voice”. Now she has it. And people love it, because it feels like her. It feels authentic.
After the SNL skit, the Benghazi Committee hearing and the JJ dinner, Clinton has her whole package wrapped up: She’s got the experience, she’s got the policy chops and then some, she’s got just the right amount of in-your-face-I’m-not-backing-down fierceness tempered by the we are-all-parents-and-grandparents persona, and now she has her delivery, her comfort, herself.
It worked. I suspect it worked because it’s her, instead of handlers trying to make her into somebody else. There was no attempt at the Big Bill laugh. This was pure Hillary and it was pure success.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.