- REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a new, more open approach to hitting the presidential campaign trail.
After a brutal summer in which her campaign was battered by near-daily negative stories about her emails and sinking poll numbers, the Democratic front-runner appears to finally be shifting gears.
The infamously insular Clinton is now giving regular interviews, breaking down barriers between her and the press, cracking jokes, and moving toward taking a position on at least one major policy question she long refused to answer.
According to Politico’s Annie Karni, Clinton has even seemed to “have listened to advice from those around her and recently ditched the teleprompter.”
This shift was telegraphed by Clinton’s advisers earlier in the month. In a story published September 7, The New York Times’ Amy Chozick interviewed her campaign strategists, who said Clinton would soon show more heart and humor on the trail.
“And there will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious,” Chozick wrote.
At the time, The Times report brought some eye rolls. Veteran Democratic consultant David Axelrod was one of multiple people who noted that it read like a story from the satirical newspaper The Onion: a “detailed plan to show more authenticity and spontaneity.”
- REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi
Despite the irony of how the rebranding was announced, there has been a marked change in how Clinton operates in recent days.
On Wednesday, her campaign invited reporters from Business Insider and other outlets to a debate-watching event at her Brooklyn headquarters, which featured beer and access to some of her top campaign officials for their reactions to the Republican brawl.
On Thursday, Clinton conducted her first live interview from the campaign trail with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. On Friday, CBS announced it would host Clinton on “Face The Nation” for her first Sunday talk-show interview since 2011.
Clinton did multiple events after her live interview Thursday in New Hampshire. That included a town-hall event during which she announced she was putting the White House “on notice” that she would soon announce her position on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“I have been waiting for the administration to make a decision,” she told the town-hall crowd, according to Bloomberg. “I can’t wait too much longer. And I am putting the White House on notice. I am going to tell you what I think soon because I can’t wait.”
Clinton previously – and awkwardly – insisted she would not comment on the controversial pipeline because of her past role in its State Department-approval process. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who has surged past Clinton in Democratic primary polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, has repeatedly needled her public Keystone indecision.
Asked what he made of the development, a spokesman for the environmental group 350.org gave a one-word response to Business Insider.
Said the spokesman, Karthik Ganapathy: “Finally.”
Perhaps nothing better points to the new Clinton approach, such as it is, than her Wednesday night appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.
In a skit credited for being legitimately funny, Clinton skewered real-estate mogul Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner whom Fallon impersonated. She made fun of the thrice-married Trump for frequently bragging that his influence was enough to rope her into attending his 2005 wedding.
“Congratulations, you’re speaking to Donald Trump. How are you Hillary? I haven’t seen you since my last wedding,” Fallon, playing the role of Trump, told Clinton.
“Well, I’m sure I’ll see you at the next one,” replied Clinton.
Later, when Fallon-as-Trump started giving advice to Clinton on how to act less like a “robot,” he asked her if she was writing down everything. Clinton said she needed to “grab my pen” but actually reached for some alcohol.
During her subsequent interview with Fallon, Clinton did her own impression of Trump. That came after the late-night host asked her about Trump’s criticism that she’s too scripted and reliant upon her teleprompter.
“I could go more stream of consciousness,” she offered, switching over to a faux Trump voice. “This is a huge election. You never know what might happen! Let’s get rid of the people who don’t agree with us.” (She also mocked Trump’s famous hairdo, letting Fallon tug on her own hair it to confirm its authenticity.)
The week before, Clinton performed the “Nae Nae” dance move on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” And she personally signed a recent tweet containing a corny emu pun:
Heading to New Hampshire and just read that there’s an emu on the loose! Seems like a story with legs. -H http://t.co/DftYf4omsY
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 17, 2015
Despite all these changes, Clinton remains one of the less accessible candidates in the presidential race.
Most of the Democrats and non-Trump Republicans are eager to boost their name recognition and jump at any opportunity for exposure, while Trump just appears to love the experience of being on television and radio shows. And Clinton’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment from Business Insider for this story.
But for Clinton, who for months refused to do national interviews, it’s a noticeable change.
Her staff infamously used a rope to physically bar reporters and photographers from getting within 10 feet of the candidate at a parade earlier this summer. And her campaign used to heavily restrict the press at its headquarters, as CNBC’s John Harwood noted in a sarcastic May story that reported everything he couldn’t report upon from the building.
“I’ve been inside Hillary Clinton’s national campaign headquarters in Brooklyn. I’ve talked with ‘senior officials’ about her bid for the White House. They sat in these chairs. Wish I could tell you more. But they said very little,” he wrote.
“Notice that I typed very little and not ‘very little,'” Harwood added, “because under the ground rules of Thursday’s briefing reporters were not allowed to quote their words directly.”