In a long-awaited and much-anticipated move, Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign Sunday. Since Clinton’s 2008 bid failed, she has led a fruitful political career, acting as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Now, speculations over her political ambitions have been put to rest. Clinton is the first of the 2016 Democratic contenders to officially announce a campaign, broadcasting the announcement as she heads to Iowa and New Hampshire to build momentum. But why make such an important announcement on a Sunday?
A Sunday announcement is hardly the norm for presidential hopefuls. Two Republicans contenders have already announced their intentions and neither chose to do it on a Sunday: Ted Cruz made his announcement on a Monday, while Rand Paul chose to break the news last Tuesday. Looking back to 2007, when both Obama and Clinton announced their involvement in what would become a heated primary race, neither went for a Sunday spot. Clinton chose a Saturday — writing, “I’m in and I’m in to win,” on her website — while Obama announced on a Saturday a couple of weeks later.
Sundays, clearly, are not particularly auspicious days for political announcements. What, then, could have prompted Clinton’s call? There are a number of reasons why she may have chosen this particular Sunday — none of which seem tied to the day of the week.
Maria Liasson noted on NPR that Clinton’s ratings have dropped since it was revealed that she kept her State Department emails on a private server at home. According to Liasson, polls have shown that a growing number of voters consider Clinton dishonest and untrustworthy. “By starting her campaign now," Liasson says, “Hillary Clinton will have a chance to try to change their minds.”
This doesn’t seem like a far-fetched notion. When Clinton announced her first presidential bid, on that Saturday in 2007, she chose the date with similar motivations — because the day afforded real political opportunity. Advisers told The Washington Post that her announcement then was timed to come out just before President Bush’s State of the Union address that Tuesday. Clinton hoped to contrast her own candidacy with that administration’s record, as the nation’s eyes turned to the office of the presidency.
In a similar fashion, her announcement Sunday allows her to react strongly against something — this time not the incumbent but the detrimental aspects of her own reputation, and her slipping advantage in some swing states. And it frees her up to get on the campaign trail for real; Martin O’Malley, a potential Democratic candidate, has already beaten her to Iowa.
This week will also herald other opportunities, as The New York Times points out. Tuesday happens to be National Equal Pay Day — which is held at the point in the year when a woman’s pay for working through 2014 and 2015 would be equal to what a man made in just 2014. Pay equity is a key issue in Clinton’s candidacy, and we should all be in for some juicy speeches.
Perhaps, too, Clinton was able to choose a Sunday because, frankly, it didn’t matter when she announced. A woman who has almost 100 percent name recognition and has been in the public eye for decades need not, necessarily, wait for the most opportune moment to strike. In fact, Clinton’s team seem to have made a point of the Sunday announcement being a “low-key” affair, in contrast to the more ostentatious events arranged by her Republican counterparts. With many commentators already bitterly muttering the word “coronation,” this tactic is perhaps part of her attempt to seem like a serious contender, willing to work hard to earn a shot at the presidency.
The silent announcement (no speech) will be followed by small-scale events in early nominating states, as she attempts to re-introduce herself to voters. The intimate style may again be an attempt to really communicate with voters, some of whom feel, so far, as if they don’t know her agenda. Iowa Democrats have made clear that they won’t make her first stop an easy one, telling The Guardian, “She needs to try and convince us she’s not just the anointed one.”
An internal campaign memo, obtained by Politico, drills this point home. It reminds the Clinton team to “take nothing for granted.” The memo continues, “we are humble….We are never afraid to lose, we always out-compete and fight for every vote we can win. We know this campaign will be won on the ground, in states.”
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