The Hard Road Of “The Unnatural”

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist


On paper, Hillary Clinton would seem to be, and probably is, the odds on favorite to be the next president. Why then is she having so much trouble putting Bernie Sanders away and raising eyebrows about her ability to beat Donald Trump in November?   It boils down to the fact that she isn’t a very good candidate.

In many ways, Donald Trump is “a natural” as a candidate. He is relaxed. He is fearless. He can be funny. He is outrageous and doesn’t let little things like facts or the truth get in the way of his shtick. He’s a natural media creature.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton can best be described as “the unnatural” as a candidate. She is clearly uncomfortable. She tries too hard and manages to make too many unforced errors. Instead of controlling the agenda, she has allowed other people’s agendas to control her. Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton probably has the right temperament to be president, but it appears she lacks the “right” temperament to run for the office.

Secretary Clinton has fallen into the trap of trying to out bluster the blusterers. Senator Marco Rubio tried playing schoolyard one-upmanship with Donald Trump and ended up getting flattened in his home state, Florida. Yelling and shouting are Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s game, not hers. When Clinton speaks at a rally or big event, she can come off as belligerent or “inauthentic”—a cardinal sin for this year’s presidential hopefuls. She also strains her vocal chords in the process.

Trump can be thin-skinned, but he never apologizes for anything—and he does it at full volume. When Senator Sanders is asked for details on his programs, he just talks louder. Hillary Clinton’s handling of the email server brouhaha is an example of what a candidate shouldn’t do to make her case. By changing explanations and splitting hairs, she has fed into the narrative that she is untrustworthy. What if, instead, she had just said, “I screwed up, but I can assure you that in the future I am going to be an absolute stickler about cyber-security.”

These days, Secretary Clinton is focused on telling the world how ruinous Donald Trump would be in the White House. It may be her strategy for revving up Democratic voters and appealing to Sanders’ supporters to stick with her after the Democratic National Convention, but she just isn’t very good at being an attack dog. There is an old saying that you should never wrestle in the mud with a pig, because you both get dirty and the pig likes it. There are plenty of credible voices to tell the world what is wrong with Donald Trump. The names Obama, Biden and Warren come to mind.   Secretary Clinton would be far better off sticking to issues and her plans for addressing America’s problems, which may not be sexy, but would free her— “more authentic”-inner policy wonk.

As a Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton enjoyed high positive approval ratings in the polls When she hit the campaign trail her unfavorable ratings moved up dramatically. (Yeah, so have The Donald’s unfavorable ratings, which makes Clinton only the candidate with the second highest unfavorables in the history of modern presidential polling. But that’s a story for another time.)

None of this is to predict that Hillary Clinton will not be our next president. She has a lot of big advantages. Barring a mathematical Sanders miracle on June 7, she has virtually locked up the Democratic nomination.   Donald Trump may have captured the hearts of a lot of Republican diehards and angry white men, but he has alienated virtually every other ethnic group and a big majority of women voters. The demographics of the electoral map, weigh heavily against him.   Moreover, the American public doesn’t think much of the Democratic Party, but it thinks a whole lot less of the GOP.

The campaign trail may not be a comfortable place for Hillary Clinton, but in this topsy-turvy election year, her unexpectedly bumpy journey—and the upshot of her opponents’ own wild campaign ride–may very well see her stumble first into the White House.

Share this article: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.