Democratic senators, anxious over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE’s inability to pull away from Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling 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.
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 FeinsteinSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns 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 BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE 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 Biden” 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) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job 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 MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (Ore.), the only Democratic senator who endorsed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war 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 CardinDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Overnight Defense & National Security: War ends, but finger pointing continues 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.