PHILADELPHIA – Meet the new Hillary Clinton, repackaged and updated from previous versions. But will voters notice or care?
After decades in the public eye, Clinton is being presented to Americans again at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, this time as a barrier-breaking liberal champion who fights for families and children.
But even as Democratic Party stars delivered one testimonial after another this week, some voters watching from the convention floor said they already know Clinton, or think they do, through her years as first lady, senator and secretary of state, and not all views are favourable. That presents a unique challenge for Clinton and her supporters as they try to reintroduce one of the country’s most visible women to voters who’ve been watching her for years.
“Why can’t we have somebody in the White House that doesn’t need to be shined up?” asked 31-year-old Liz Maratea of New Jersey, standing Tuesday outside the Wells Fargo Center, where she’d come to support Bernie Sanders. “Nothing needs to be repackaged about Bernie.”
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Clinton backers have long argued that if voters only knew her as those close to her do, they would find plenty to like. The campaign has worked on that message in recent months, and this week’s convention is aimed squarely at presenting that Clinton to the bigger general election audience.
The portrait was laid out in waves this week.
She is someone who wants to “break down all the barriers to opportunity,” in the words of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
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She’s tireless and hard-working, gets knocked down but “has never quit on anything in her life,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.
She’s spent decades fighting for women and children, minorities and the disabled – or, as her husband, former President Bill Clinton, put it Tuesday night, “She’s a change-maker.”
Some of the reintroduction is more than cosmetic: Clinton moved left on issues including trade and education in the course of the primary campaign, adopting stances pushed by Sanders.
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It’s far from the first time Clinton has had to reintroduce herself. Allies say she’s often been preceded by wrong impressions created by political adversaries. Others note that she’s done harm to her own image through issues like her use of a personal email server.
Backers argue that Clinton’s strength is not as a campaigner but as a hard worker, and once she gets a job, she adopts a “workhorse” approach that impresses even adversaries.
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Former Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln recalled fellow senators wondering whether Clinton would require a lot of attention when she joined the Senate in 2001. But Lincoln said she heard from colleagues, “You know what, you were right, she’s not a diva, she wants to work.” Lincoln added, “I wish people could know her as I know her.”
Some skeptical voters in Philadelphia are willing to give Clinton a re-hearing, especially after listening to fellow Democrats vouch for her from the convention stage.
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“I’m always open to new information,” said Colby Clipston, 23, of Portland, Oregon. He pointed to Sanders’ convention speech, where the senator detailed positions that he and Clinton now share.
“If Hillary Clinton comes out and she demonstrates that she is going to be someone we can trust to stick to that, I think we can begin to have a conversation,” Clipston said.