By Amie Parnes - 06/11/14 06:00 AM EDT
Hillary Clinton’s public relations offensive for her new book, Hard Choices, is doubling as an early look at a possible Clinton campaign for the White House.
Here are seven takeaways from the media blitz.
1. Clinton is going on the offensive with Benghazi
Before Hard Choices even went on sale Tuesday, Clinton allies released the Benghazi chapter of the book.
That sent a direct signal to Republicans — while rallying supporters — that she does not want to be bullied on the issue.
In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Clinton pointedly said Republican criticism of her on the controversial 2012 attack in Libya would not keep her out of the race.
“Actually, it’s more of a reason to run, because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball. We ought to be in the majors,” she said. “I view this as really apart from — even a diversion from — the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world.”
Clinton allies rejoiced upon hearing the former secretary of State’s sharp words.
“If there was a line that resonated with me in that whole interview, it was that one,” said one longtime Clinton associate. “She’s tired of it being politicized and she’s making it clear that she won’t be knocked around on the issue. It was fantastic.”
2. Gaffes are possible, even on a book tour
Clinton stepped on her carefully planned book rollout when she told Sawyer that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” when they left the White House.
The gaffe gave Republicans a huge opening to argue that she is out of touch with most Americans, given the fact that they earned millions in speaking fees after leaving the White House.
Clinton sought to contain the damage on Tuesday, when she clarified the remarks in a second ABC interview.
She said she fully appreciated “how hard life is for so many Americans” and said she and the former president had been blessed.
She also sought to tie her experiences to regular folks, saying that, while she and her husband had a life experience “clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans, we also have gone through some of the same challenges many people have.”
The comments were a useful reminder for Team Clinton that everything she says will be heavily scrutinized, and that the gaffes that hurt her in her 2008 run for president must be avoided.
3. Numbers will count
How many copies of Hard Choices is Clinton going to sell? Interest in Clinton’s book will be an unofficial survey of the interest in another Clinton campaign.
It’s too early to know how big of a best seller the autobiography will be, but Team Clinton will be paying close attention to presales and the number of attendees at book signings. Booksellers have already ordered up 1 million copies.
Critics are also watching, and lying in wait. Old foe The Drudge Report led its website for most of Tuesday afternoon with a tweet showing some books were being marked down by 40 percent.
Regardless of how many books Clinton sells, interest in what she has to say is huge, and Clinton could benefit from a media blitz that includes dozens of appearances on national television and radio, a People magazine cover, a jam-packed bookstore for her signing debut in New York and a dizzying book schedule in the weeks to come.
“She could potentially outsell her husband’s book [My Life],” one Clinton associate predicted. Bill Clinton sold more than 400,000 copies on the first day.
4. Is Clinton’s cautiousness here to stay?
One of the things that hurt Clinton most in 2008 was her inability to loosen up and take risks. And observers say she fell right into the trap again with the overall tone of the book.
In an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday, Mark Halperin called the book “cautious mush” that doesn’t convey what Clinton would do as president.
Other critics said Clinton took a cautious stance on Tuesday, when she tried to refine the “dead broke” comments.
Clintonites say she can’t win.
“If she would have been a little more casual about it, then people would have criticized her for being too relaxed and breezy about it,” one former campaign aid said. “The book tour is still young. Let’s see what the overall tone is in the coming days.”
5. Clinton will try to show a personal side
Clinton allies have made concerted efforts to try and let the public see the real Hillary Clinton since her days as first lady. And at times, it’s been something they have struggled to do. But the book, together with the rollout, has tried to let people see another side of her.
Readers discover she likes California chardonnay. They learn about the moment in Prague when President Obama pulled her aside, put his arm around her and told her she had something in her teeth, and that she sometimes “dug the fingernails of one hand into the palm of the other” to stay awake amid a grinding schedule that took her to 112 countries during her time as secretary of State.
And Team Clinton feels like the ABC interview with Sawyer also provided a revealing glimpse.
“The ABC interview was the most relaxed and candid I’ve seen from her,” said one Clinton aide. “Way different from 2008.”
Look for Team Clinton to continue to show the more personal side in the coming months.
6. Clinton will be candid on sexism
One of the biggest takeaways is how candid Clinton has been on sexism. She already addressed it in the 2008 campaign and during her time at the State Department, when attention was paid to her scrunchies. It’s a telling sign from a candidate who could become the first female president, and who wants pride in breaking the final “glass ceiling” to be a reason for supporting her.
Those around her say she won’t be shy about continuing to address it.
“I think she continues to get asked [about sexism],” one Clinton aide said. “And I believe her, when she says she really doesn’t give a sh*t anymore and is going to say what she wants.”
7. The campaign has started
Clinton might not have made a decision about whether to jump into the presidential race, but many observe the campaign has already begun.
Press releases from the Republican National Committee on Tuesday were all about Clinton, not Obama, and Republican super-PACs are fundraising on her comments, and observers are parsing every single word in between.