Presidential campaigns are all about control.
Controlling the messages, controlling the narrative, and controlling the outcome to gain the support needed to win.
Somewhere along the way, Hillary Clinton has allowed her team to relinquish control of their narrative to her opponents, both Democrat and Republicans.
On March 11 of this year I wrote ¨ Her announcement that she will decide which emails are official and will be provided to the State Department is in keeping with current government standards. However, if she aspires to the nation’s highest office, she must be perceived to be setting a higher standard for herself. Effective communications strategy would call for an impartial selection of those emails that were official, in the name of full transparency.¨
On August 7, I also suggested to her campaign to identify all issues opponents could use against her, design messages that address each issue, and be as forthcoming as possible from the start with all the details. She should also make them public herself to take away the initiative from her opponents.
Rather than take a pro-active role in managing the email debate, she is simply reacting to whatever arises, leaving her leadership skills in question. She has let her opponents run with this issue and manage the narrative. She even joked in Iowa about setting up a “Snapchat” account – “where messages erase themselves”.
She prefers to blame her opponents for dragging this issue out rather than accept responsibility herself – especially since there are reports that the FBI is reviewing over 300 messages for possible classified content.
Secretary Clinton has had a few years to review her past, come to terms with it, and explain her actions and possible shortcomings to voters in order to mitigate damage early on. She should have prepared herself to deal with these issues in a forthright and proactive manner – especially when polls constantly show her credibility and honesty to be key damaging issues for her.
This stifles the message she is trying to send out with regards to her polices. Constant reaction rather than pro-activity is a poor substitute for leadership.
Her main opponent – Senator Bernie Sanders – has made a principle of speaking the truth and enjoying high levels of credibility, even among those who may not share his political philosophy. While his credibility alone won’t win it for him, the party establishment may look at both he and Secretary Clinton and decide to promote a new entrant, such as Joe Biden, in the hopes of unifying the party and salvaging the chances of winning a general election.
Credibility and trustworthiness are key attributes one looks for in a leadership race. Her consistently decreasing popularity figures indicate that the field is still open for Sanders or even Vice President Joe Biden – should he ultimately decide to run — to make a strong run for the candidacy. If their popularity grows, a Clinton victory in the primaries may be fleeting indeed. Sanders and Biden supporters may not be enthusiastic about supporting Clinton in a presidential race, preferring to stay at home rather than go out and vote.
If this happens, Secretary Clinton has only herself to blame.
Throughout she has acted as though she were the anointed one – above the fray and beyond the need to explain herself openly and with full disclosure. One might sympathize with those who would like to support her but find it difficult to do so in view of her shortcomings.
A successful leader must inspire and lead by example. Secretary Clinton has been diminished by her inability or unwillingness to be open or forthcoming. This is her Achilles heel in a campaign year where non-establishment and candid candidates are making huge gains at the expense of those who practice politics as usual. She may well be past the point of no return.
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.