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Horowitz: Clinton Kicks Off Campaign Impressively

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


In front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 5,000 gathered at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, Hillary Clinton kicked-off her Presidential campaign in impressive fashion this past weekend. And in case anyone missed the fact that the location was chosen as homage to the Democratic President that launched the New Deal and led the nation to victory in World War II, Clinton made it explicit, echoing one of FDR’s most famous lines, “Here, on Roosevelt Island, I believe we have a continuing rendezvous with destiny.  Each American and the country we cherish”

Clinton also consciously drew a parallel with Roosevelt’s four freedoms by outlining her campaign’s four pillars—the 4 big fights she will take on: ‘With that same spirit, together, we can win these four fights. We can build an economy where hard work is rewarded. We can strengthen our families. We can defend our country and increase our opportunities all over the world. And we can renew the promise of our democracy.”

Aimed squarely at the middle class, Clinton’s 45 minute speech deftly combined smart policy proposals, attacks on the Republicans as attempting to sell the same old trickle down economics in slick new packaging, biographical details aimed at conveying warmth and defining her as a fighter for average people, some well-placed self-deprecation, and straightforwardly embracing the fact she would be our first woman President.

While mentioning the importance of combating inequality, the policy initiatives, Clinton  focused more on providing opportunity for all than on redistributing wealth.  For example, she proposed universal pre-kindergarten as one of the key’s to leveling the playing field. “I will propose that we make preschool and quality childcare available to every child in America…. One thing I’ve learned is that talent is universal - you can find it anywhere - but opportunity is not.  Too many of our kids never have the chance to learn and thrive as they should and as we need them to. Our country won’t be competitive or fair if we don’t help more families give their kids the best possible start in life”.

Similarly, Clinton highlighted the importance of making college more affordable to widening opportunity. She is reportedly going to soon advance a sweeping proposal to curb out of control student loan debt.

In a particularly effective part of her remarks, Clinton talked about the fact that she has made a fair number of mistakes—something she is usually too reluctant to do. “And along the way, I’ll just let you in on this little secret.  I won’t get everything right.  Lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes.  Well, there’s no shortage of people pointing them out!”  

I hope she will follow up this general statement with detailed and specific responses to the ongoing Clinton Foundation and email controversies---festering problems which have resulted in a majority of Americans questioning her honesty.  A frank admission that she made some mistakes in these instances, coupled with robust new rules of the road that truly separate Clinton Foundation fundraising and paid speech-making by the former President from Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and most importantly, her prospective Presidency are still imperative.  .  

Unlike her unsuccessful Presidential campaign eight years ago, Hillary Clinton celebrated the fact that if successful, she would be our first woman President.  She concluded her speech talking about the kind of America she would like to see, including “An America where a father can tell his daughter:  yes, you can be anything you want to be. Even President of the United States.”. This is not only undeniable, but as many observers have pointed out, it is what makes her candidacy potentially fresh and appealing, despite the fact she is 67 years old and a fixture on the national stage for more than 20 years.

While one speech and event alone can not erase what has been undeniably a rocky beginning for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential candidacy, the themes and policy areas presented by the former Secretary of State and the effective way she communicated them provide a strong foundation upon which to go forward.  This summer, she plans to follow-up this launch, by elaborating on the policy ideas she advanced, providing detailed plans.  Her grasp of the complexities of policy as well as the seriousness of purpose she conveys when discussing specific proposals are signature strengths.  In other words, the ground Hillary Clinton is choosing to fight on is her strongest ground—and that is certainly a positive sign for her prospect of ultimate success.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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