Hillary Clinton campaign launch: Is second time the charm?

Hillary Rodham Clinton official campaign launch Saturday: The April campaign launch video featured stories of individuals facing transitions in their lives. Substantive, it wasn't. Now Clinton is rolling out the highlights of an actual agenda.

Hillary For America/AP/File
In this image taken from video posted to hillaryclinton.com Hillary Rodham Clinton announces her campaign for president on April 12, 2015.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is set to make the first big stump speech of her 2016 presidential campaign today at Roosevelt Island in New York City. Team Hillary is calling it a “launch,” and they’re expecting a crowd of several thousand, with uncounted thousands more watching a livestream of the event.

And if you’re like most Americans and don’t follow politics with the avidity of a sports fan, your question is, “What? Didn’t she launch her campaign once before? We have a vague memory of something like that occurring.”

That’s true. She has launched already, in a way. Mrs. Clinton officially kicked off her campaign with an announcement video in April.

So this a second launch, if you will. Don’t call it a re-launch though, because that implies the first launch didn’t get airborne, which it did, according to the Clinton team. Maybe it’s the igniting of the second stage?

Well, we’d say a couple of things lie behind the multiple rollouts. The first is Americans’ attention: At this point, most voters are only dimly aware of the first stirrings in the 2016 race. Maybe they know Clinton has officially announced her candidacy, maybe they don’t. Most likely they don’t care. So she can announce beginnings over and over, and the media treats them as if they’re brand new every time.

The second is that the campaign is trying to step from one transition point to another. Her April campaign announcement video was personal, in that it featured the individual stories of a number of ordinary folks who were facing transitions in their lives: moving into a house in a better school district, taking the risk of setting up a new business, and so on.

Substantive, it wasn’t.

“The video contains zero policy specifics,” wrote Greg Sargent at the time on his “Plum Line” political blog at the Washington Post.

But all the people in the announcement were facing economic challenges, pointed out Sargent. Now Clinton is taking the next step: rolling out the highlights of an actual agenda her campaign says can begin to meet these challenges, plus other national problems.

Her aides say Saturday’s speech will thus talk about “four fights:” strengthening the economy, helping families, ending the flow of unaccountable cash into politics, and protecting the US.

Hmm. Still sounds kind of vague, doesn’t it? We’ll have to see what she says. In any case, the “four fights” formulation is supposed to be an echo of the setting, Roosevelt Island’s Four Freedoms Park. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” were freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from from want, and freedom from fear. 

Republicans, of course, say that the reason Clinton’s doing another big splash announcement is that the first didn’t, in fact, go well at all.

She’s trying to hit a reset button, in this view, because she’s dogged by continuing questions about the Clinton Foundation’s finances, Bill Clinton’s paid speeches, and her use of a personal e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of State.

A new CNN/ORC poll found that 57 percent of Americans think Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, up from 49 percent in March.

“Campaign aides familiar with the speech on Saturday say Clinton’s chief goal will be to outline her rationale for running, providing voters with a reason to elect her, and responding to those who have said her run is based on nothing more than inevitability,” write CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica.

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