Anxious Dems urge Clinton to open up

Democratic senators, anxious over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE’s inability to pull away from Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE, have some advice for their nominee: Be more open, show your soul, focus on the economy and talk about blue-collar jobs.

Recent polls show Trump within striking distance of Clinton in the presidential election, defying predictions in Washington that he is doomed in November.

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The Republican nominee's ability to stay competitive while running an unconventional campaign has underscored what Democratic lawmakers see as the need for Clinton to improve in certain areas.  

These lawmakers, who served with Clinton in Congress and have known her for years, say her public persona is too guarded.

They struggle to reconcile the charismatic, warm and funny woman they know in private with Clinton’s public persona, which can come across as stern, aloof or annoyed.   

Democratic senators say it’s natural for Clinton to put up her guard, because she has been the target of Republican attacks for decades. But they think she might benefit from relaxing a little more on the campaign trail. 

“Her decades in this arena have taken their toll,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (D-Calif.). “When you’re hit a lot there’s almost an unconscious shield that controls the answers to your questions. I think she’s got to get rid of that and just let herself be."

“Everybody that knows her loves her. They know her heart is full,” she added. “That’s what she ought to do, just take the shield away from the heart.”

Vice President Biden offered similar advice earlier in the week, calling on her to be “more open.”

Clinton has had the most difficulty connecting with white, working-class voters. A nationwide CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday showed Trump beating Clinton among white voters without college degrees, 66 percent to 23 percent. 

Many of these voters question her trustworthiness.

The poll showed Trump leading Clinton by 2 points among likely voters nationwide, 45 percent to 42 percent. Voters gave Clinton a slightly higher unfavorable rating.

Biden thinks she can put those doubts to rest by being less guarded.  

“Hillary knows it’s a problem, and she’s trying to figure out how to remedy it. And my advice to her, the best way to remedy it, is to talk about what you care about and talk about it with some passion,” he told CNN. 

He advised her to “open up” and let voters “see your heart a little more.”

Some Senate Democrats think Biden’s right but caution that Clinton can’t pretend to be someone she’s not.

“It would be great if she showed her soul more, but she’s got to be comfortable and it has to be authentic,” said one senator, who requested anonymity to offer a frank assessment. 

The lawmaker said Clinton is not a “soaring orator or a slap-you-on-the-shoulder politician like Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden compares Trump to George Wallace Sanders unveils plan to guarantee the 'right to a secure retirement' CNN Democratic debate drawing finishes third in cable news ratings race MORE” but nevertheless could act more naturally, like she often does in private settings with allies, donors and friends. 

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus criticized Clinton Wednesday as appearing angry and defensive during a national security forum hosted by NBC. 

Clinton defended herself during a press conference Thursday, arguing her demeanor fit the subject matter. 

“I had a very short window of time in that event last night to convey the seriousness with which I would approach the issues that concern our country,” she told reporters. 

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives MORE (Mont.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, noted some of the critiques of Clinton “have been said for a long time; you have to be more open, you’ve got to show more personality.” 

He said that voters have gotten to know Clinton, and most think she’ll do a good job as president. He applauded Clinton’s increased media availability in recent days as something that makes her more accessible to voters. 

“That’s a good thing,” Tester said. “The more transparent, the better.”

Clinton's campaign signaled Thursday that it was taking the advice. A top aide told The Washington Post that Clinton would open up about her faith and values, and she took the first step when she gave a personal address Thursday night to the National Baptist Convention.

Clinton’s tone during speeches and debates has been a charged topic throughout the campaign. Pundits who suggest she should soften her demeanor and lower her voice have faced accusations that such criticism is inherently sexist.  

Clinton’s other big vulnerability is the economy. Polls consistently show that voters have more confidence in Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, to jump-start growth. 

Feinstein says Clinton should talk more about the loss of manufacturing jobs and what the federal government can do to rebuild the manufacturing base. 

She said Clinton should talk about “keeping companies here” and “enabling tech to do manufacturing here instead of abroad.”

Feinstein said one policy solution would be to give companies with billions of dollars stashed overseas a tax break on repatriating their profits in exchange for pledges to invest in domestic factories. 

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate Democrat releasing book on Trump admin's treatment of migrants at border MORE (Ore.), the only Democratic senator who endorsed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard arrives in Puerto Rico to 'show support' amid street protests Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall Sanders unveils plan to guarantee the 'right to a secure retirement' MORE (Vt.) during the primary, said Clinton needs to put more emphasis on creating high-paying blue-collar jobs. 

“The biggest concern is living-wage jobs,” he said. “She’s laid out a strong infrastructure program that will put a lot of people to work ... but I think the issue of living-wage jobs needs to be talked a lot more."

Merkley says the income erosion suffered by middle-class families is a big reason for the discontent that has roiled this election cycle. 

“It’s at the heart of the fact that blue-collar families are not doing as well as they were doing 20 or 30 years ago,” he added. 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCan new US Strategy on Women, Peace & Security give women a real seat at the table? Ask Afghan women Maryland lawmakers slam 'despicable' Trump remark about journalists on newsroom shooting anniversary Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt MORE (D-Md.) gives Clinton high marks for her performance this year and praised her campaign ads as highly effective. 

“She’s running her campaign the way it needs to be run,” he said.

He acknowledged that voters have reservations about Clinton but argued they have much deeper concerns about a Trump presidency.

He suggested, however, that she focus on the economy and work on erasing Trump’s lead on the issue. 

“I think the economy is still one of the most important issues. She has to concentrate on the economy. At the end of the day, people do vote the economy, so that’s a critical and important part of the campaign,” he said.