Not too long ago, reporters resorted to chasing Hillary Clinton’s so-called Scooby Van just to get a glimpse of the candidate, and they were corralled with ropes while covering her marching in a parade. Getting an interview with the former secretary of state, meanwhile, was out of the question.
But now, after a long drought that bred some resentment on both sides of the political aisle, Clinton is suddenly ubiquitous.
There she is on cable news, and on a late-night talk show couch. Here she is on a Sunday show set, or calling into a black radio show, or filming an interview with a politically active young actress. By the first Monday in October, Clinton will have given at least 12 national interviews in the span of 28 days, with more likely to be announced before then. That’s a radical change from the first 144 days of her campaign, when Clinton gave just three national broadcast interviews, with the first one not coming until 86 days after she launched.
How long Clinton's tryst with the national media will last, however, remains to be seen.
For now, it's the right approach, says Ben LaBolt, a former communications aide to President Obama. “After a summer of tough coverage Sec. Clinton is moving to take control of the story, both to put to bed any residual questions and to ensure that her broader message breaks through,” he said in an email.
“It's clear that she's reaching out to voters across the spectrum, both through hard news formats and more entertainment driven outlets that reach a less political audience,” LaBolt added.
Clinton’s campaign telegraphed a change in strategy in early September, when her campaign was bad headlines every day, and they promised the public would soon be seeing a lot more of Clinton.
Her media blitz began traditionally, with a sit-down with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Sept. 4 in which she refused to apologize for using a private email server. A few days later, facing some criticism from allies and donors, Clinton finally said “I’m sorry” in an interview with ABC’s David Muir.
After a four-year absence, Clinton made her first visit to the set of a Sunday morning political talk show last Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” And she isn’t waiting long for a follow-up; she's scheduled for a grilling from Chuck Todd Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The day after the last Republican presidential debate, Clinton offered her response on CNN. And the week after next, Clinton will attended a live town hall moderated by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie for the “Today" show.”
On Tuesday, Clinton seemed unbothered when her meeting with the Des Moines Register editorial board stretched well over the allotted 90-minutes. "Just barely shorter than the CNN debate!” Clinton joked. “I don't wear a watch anymore because it only frustrates me."
And soon, Clinton was popping up in less traditional places. She learned the “nae nae” on Ellen Degeneres’ show and sipped wine as she pretended to take a phone call from Donald Trump on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Both shows reach a non-political audience, and the clips found wide play on local TV news.
Last week, she sat on a park bench with the fashion website Refinery29, which reaches younger women, to discuss her campus sexual assault plan. And on Thursday, the first clip of Clinton's interview with actress and supporter Lena Dunham was released
“Yes, absolutely,” Clinton responded when asked if she's a feminist. “I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman of whatever age, but particularly a young woman, says something like, ‘well, I believe in equal rights but I’m not a feminist.’ Well, a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights. I’m hoping that people will not be afraid to say [it].”
Meanwhile, Clinton recently called into two radio shows that reach African-American audiences. Last week, she referenced scripture as she discussed overcoming racism with April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. And on Wednesday, she called into the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" and pushed back on Donald Trump's claim that she was involved spreading rumors that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.
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Each interview seems carefully selected to reach a certain audience, with Clinton’s campaign saying from day one that its media strategy would be focused on speaking to key voters, rather than giving interviews for the sake of it. This summer, two of the only three interviews Clinton gave were to Univision and Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show.
Clinton’s campaign says this was their strategy all along and insists the timing didn’t change as her poll numbers fell. The first phase of the campaign was always focused on talking to voters. Then Clinton would speak with local media in key states, which she did generally two-a-piece per state after campaign events. Finally, she would turn to national outlets as the primaries and caucuses approached. The first Democratic presidential debate is just over two weeks away.
Many voters have still not tuned into the election, and summer is typically a low period for television viewership anyway, so better to wait until the kids are in school and more people are watching Jimmy Fallon, the thinking goes. But after Clinton exhausts the "must-do" national media circuit, will she retreat or continue to be available? Stay tuned.