The pieces of an increasingly likely Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign are starting to fall into place.
Clinton is already reportedly scoping out locations for a campaign headquarters, thinking about key staffing decisions and embarking on an unofficial listening tour to gain wisdom from a disparate set of thinkers.
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And in the waning days of the 2014 midterm campaign, as Clinton stumped for Democrats across the country, a message began to emerge in her stump speeches. Over the course of 75 events on behalf of more than 30 candidates in 20 states, Clinton tested and honed and retooled the building blocks of what could become her presidential campaign’s raison d’etre.
While her speeches were tailored to the candidates she came to support and the politics of each state, a core set of themes began to emerge, according to a memo from Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton outside group managed by former staffers that has been defending the former secretary of state in the absence of an official campaign.
“The primary theme that emerged in Clinton’s national travels leading up to November 4th was advancing opportunity and prosperity, directly addressing a fundamental concern and cynicism among the American people,” Isaac Wright, the group’s executive director, wrote to allies of the group in the memo, shared with msnbc ahead of its release.
That message resonates with Americans, Wright continued, citing exit polls that showed 83% of Democrats, and 40% of voters overall, think she would make a good president. That’s more than any other candidate, though a generic Republican beat her in a head-to-head match-up. Her message has the potential to resonate with the “emotional dismay of the electorate,” Wright continued.
Emotion was something too often lacking on the campaign trail from candidates this year, according to some Democrats, who complained that some candidates lacked an overarching positive message.
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Clinton’s core themes, identified by Correct The Record, which as an independent expenditure group is prohibited from coordinating directly with candidates, include a focus on advancing middle class families and growing the economy and jobs.
Clinton also spoke about expanding opportunities for women and children, issues she has been involved in since her early adulthood. “One of the biggest differences between 2008 and the buildup to 2016,” Wright noted, “is Clinton’s relationship with her own position as a woman.” Not surprisingly, given her record, Clinton also put foreign policy front and center, speaking about support for U.S. troops and veterans.
Clinton has also been partisan on occasion, supporting Democrats and progressive values, while hitting Republicans – though almost never by name – and criticizing their policies. This was especially true when she slammed “trickle-down economics” in Massachusetts and went after Sen.-elect Joni Ernst in Iowa.
Some top Democrats, especially those associated with President Obama’s campaigns, have worried that Clinton will fail to offer a clear vision for why she should be president if she decides to run, aside from the strength of her resume.
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Her initial pitch when she ran in 2008 was that she was “in it to win it” and that she would be “ready on day one.” Meeting the basic competency requirements of the job turned out to not be a very inspiring message. Later, after she lost the Iowa Caucuses, Clinton found her stride talking about populist economic issues. For instance, in Ohio, with the help of former Gov. Ted Strickland, she talked about taking on drug companies and credit card companies and sticking up for American families.
While the themes themselves may not be groundbreaking, Clinton has found a way to make them emotionally resonant. She speaks about values and fairness, instead of policy. And she connected her vision to her own story. The line that she repeated most on the trail in 2014 was, “You should not have to be the grandchild of a president to get” a fair shot. It speaks to fairness, her own story, and subtly addresses critiques of her wealth.
Expect to hear it a lot more.