What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle stop says about her campaign

Hillary Clinton rode in a GMC van to Iowa, and stopped for fast-food along the way as part of her new image campaign. Will it work? 

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with local residents at the Jones St. Java House, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in LeClaire, Iowa.

When Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off her 2008 presidential primary campaign, she soared into Iowa on a Gulfstream corporate jet, and nobody blinked.

This time around, Mrs. Clinton bounced into the state in a GMC van nicknamed Scooby, stopping at a Chipotle restaurant along the way, and set the country buzzing. Well, at least social media buzzed. 

The contrast says a lot about the candidate and the kind of campaign she plans to run for 2016.

On her second presidential run, Clinton is downplaying her multimillionaire-star-politician status and trying to appeal to middle-class Americans and working-class voters. Her campaign announcement video touted "everyday Americans," and on her kickoff campaign road trip, that's exactly the image Clinton tried to project.

On her 1,000-mile road trip from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., to her first campaign stop in Monticello, Iowa, Clinton's van pulled into a Pilot gas station in Pennsylvania Sunday, where she tweeted an image posing with a family from Michigan. On Monday afternoon, she stopped at a Chipotle restaurant in Maumee, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, ostensibly, to fuel up for the long campaign ahead.

The presidential candidate, wearing dark sunglasses, and joined by longtime aide Huma Abedin, ordered a chicken burrito bowl, a chicken salad, a Blackberry Izze drink, and a soda.

The Chipotle pit stop was part of a campaign narrative designed to make the former first lady, perhaps one of the most recognized politicians on the planet, appear more like a low-key, average American.

It worked a little too well.

Clinton, barely disguised behind dark sunglasses, went largely unrecognized.

Apparently, Clinton's campaign wanted to see their candidate sighted, humbly ordering and paying for her chicken burrito bowl like an everyday American. So they telephoned The New York Times and tipped off a reporter, setting off a flood of stories.

"The thing is, she has these dark sunglasses on," the manager, Charles Wright, told The Times. "She just was another lady."

Phew. Campaign narrative salvaged.

Because, of course, Clinton is not just another lady. She's a former first lady, senator, secretary of State, and international icon accustomed to private jets, personal security details, and presidential suites. She's jet-setted the globe, earned seven-figure book advances, and charges $200,000 in speaking fees. She hasn't driven a car since 1996. She owns a mansion in Chappaqua, N.Y., and a swanky home in one of Washington's toniest neighborhoods.

As Politico's Glenn Thrush writes, "The economic gap between Hillary Rodham Clinton and an average, 'everyday American' is wide enough to drive a Scooby van through."

And yet, that's a gap Clinton must work to bridge in her campaign.

Which is why we probably won't be hearing more gaffes like the infamous one Clinton made last summer when she said her family was "dead broke" after leaving the White House.

Instead, we can expect to hear about Clinton's plan to fight economic inequality, about her own less-than-privileged upbringing, and the hardscrabble life of her mother, Dorothy.

And of course, many more burrito bowls along the way.

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