Behind Clinton’s talk-show blitz

Behind Clinton’s talk-show blitz

After a difficult summer, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBen Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering Republican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema MORE’s campaign thought their candidate needed a quick boost to her image that would show off her spontaneity and sense of humor. 

So, they booked Clinton on daytime television, where she danced the Nae Nae with Ellen DeGeneres and her DJ. 

She also talked to Extra’s Mario Lopez, of “Saved by the Bell”-fame, about meeting Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

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And in a late-night appearance on “The Tonight Show” that aired the night of the second GOP debate, she sipped wine in a sketch that had her talking on the phone with host Jimmy Fallon, who played Republican front-runner Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner. 

After the faux-Trump told Clinton he hadn’t seen her since his last wedding, she replied, “I’m sure I’ll see you at the next one.”

Those close to Clinton say the talk show circuit isn’t so much a mapped-out strategy as an opportunity to showcase Clinton unplugged. They want voters to be introduced to their candidate as a witty woman who likes to gab, meet celebrities and watch “House of Cards.”

And overall, Clinton’s supporters believe the appearances are paying dividends. 

“Anytime I see her looking like my friend, the Hillary Clinton I know, I’m happy about that,” said Ellen Tauscher, the former California representative who served as the undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs under Clinton. 

Tauscher said she’s been fielding calls about how well the Democratic front-runner did in her appearance with Fallon in particular.

“She has one of the most ticklish, infectious laughs. When she is laughing at something, everyone else is, too. That’s the Hillary I want people to see more of,” Tauscher said.

Clinton’s appearance gave Fallon his best ratings in seven months, according to Deadline, the entertainment website.

But it also may have paid off for Clinton, who talked about gefilte fish, taking selfies and how much she likes social media. She even let Fallon feel her hair as the two mocked Trump’s signature hairdo.

“I think it’s something people really need to see,” added one longtime ally. “When I tell people she’s one of the funniest people I’ve met, they don’t believe me until they meet her. Then, they can’t stop laughing.”

But some observers aren’t quite sure the television blitz will bolster Clinton’s likability or move the dial in the polls. 

Part of the problem is that that the campaign pegged the appearances as a planned effort to make her appear more spontaneous. Coming out of the Labor Day weekend earlier this month, The New York Times declared that Clinton would “show more humor and heart” according to aides, in the coming weeks.

Since then the effort has been met with eye-rolls from even Democrats and political observers.

“The problem is, when your communications people are telling everyone that Hillary is about to be humorous, authentic and charming, you’re telling people that Hillary is about to be humorous, authentic and charming,” said Tobe Berkowitz, a professor of advertising who specializes in political communication. “And that seems counterintuitive because you know her goal is to be humorous, authentic and charming.”

Another longtime ally took it a step further. “I can’t watch any of these shows without thinking about this 'strategy,' and that’s a problem.”

Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons agreed.

"She’s got to do something to let people know that she understands them and shares their aspirations, but showing us is more important than telling us,” he said.

Others wonder whether the less conventional platforms work for a candidate like Clinton, who is perceived in the public sphere as highly intelligent and capable but not particularly likable.

Robert Thompson, a professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, said these types of appearances “can be very helpful if you’re good at it.”

Hillary Clinton is very familiar with one of the most famous and successful appearances by a politician. 

Thompson pointed to Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall as a “defining moment” for his presidential bid in 1992. 

Likewise, Vice President Biden’s appearance last week on Late Night with Stephen Colbert was “very sincere and moving.” 

While Tauscher and other Clinton allies loved her performance with Fallon, Thompson is a bit of a critic.

Hillary Clinton is “not that great at delivering a line,” he said. “She isn’t a great performer.” 

Clinton allies say they feel the most recent junket went well considering the high bar set for a figure such as Clinton. As Tauscher put it, “She’s not judged by a higher standard but an ever-increasing standard that’s impossible to achieve.”

And she’ll move back into more serious territory again. On Thursday, for instance, Clinton was interviewed live by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, where she had to answer more questions about her controversial use of a private email server while secretary of State. 

And she is set to appear on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, where the issue will likely come up again.

“It's a wound that we have to live with and treat,” another Democratic strategist acknowledged. “It's yet to be seen how she moves past the email controversy. But what she really needs to do is focus voters on their concerns, not her mistakes.”

At the same time, her allies predict she'll want to move back to policy and discussing the issues.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing that she’s a multi-dimensional person, but I’m sure she’s saying, ‘Can I get back to business now?' ” she said.