How to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche

The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a traditional advertising industry principle. The political application of USP is that a candidate needs a special identity or niche to stand out in a crowded field.

Consider Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate Gillibrand unveils mental health plan MORE’s (D-N.Y.) muddle. She’s certainly qualified. She is 52 and has served in the U.S. Senate representing New York since 2009 when she was appointed to fill the vacancy created when President Obama nominated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE to be his Secretary of State. She served one term in U.S. House of Representatives from upstate New York before ascending to the upper chamber and winning two reelection campaigns to keep her seat.

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But there are more than a dozen Democratic presidential candidates. She is only one of six United States senators campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination including three other female senators.

The problem she faces is how to break through the clutter.

Year of the woman?

Two of her opponents in the Democratic fight — former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Moulton says Biden would make 'fantastic president' MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (I-Vt.) — started the race with almost universal name recognition. Those two are the front runners in a new CNN survey of Democratic primary voters. The only two other candidates with double digit support in the poll are Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). Gillibrand languishes way back in the pack with only 1 percent of the vote which just reaches the minimal standard the Democratic National Committee has established for inclusion in the televised Democratic presidential debates.

Both Democratic front runners are men but 2020 should and could be the “Year of the Woman” in presidential politics. The male front runners have soft leads and a woman could easily charge into the vacuum if either of their candidacies falter. 

The two most prominent congressional Democrats, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Conservatives push Trump tariff relief over payroll tax cuts Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezStudents retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Poll: Voters split on whether it's acceptable for Israel to deny Omar, Tlaib visas MORE (D-N.Y.) are women. My apologies to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE but AOC’s new Time Magazine cover sealed the deal. A recent Rolling Stone cover with the headline “Women Shaping the Future” featuring Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTrump to return to North Carolina to stump for special election candidate Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support MORE (D-Minn.) and Jahana HayesJahana HayesLawmakers put spotlight on youth homelessness The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks to rebound after tough week Harris adds endorsement from 7th Congressional Black Caucus member MORE (D-Conn.) is another graphic example of female clout on Capitol Hill.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE has driven many women into the Democratic Party and they will be important voters in Democratic presidential primaries and attend caucuses.

Women won major victories in contested Democratic congressional primaries against male opponents in 2018.

The #MeToo movement continues to be a driving force in society thanks to brave female victims and loutish men like Trump. Gillibrand could be the beneficiary of the power of the #MeToo movement. She used her position on the Senate Armed Forces Committee to drag the military kicking and screaming out of its 19th century treatment of service women who were victims of sexual abuse. Gillibrand was brave enough to call out former Senate colleague, Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFormer GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again MORE of Minnesota for sexual misconduct.

Biden and Sanders don’t need USPs because they’re both so well established. O’Rourke attracts media attention just by standing on table tops. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (D-Mass.) has created a niche in the race by being the issue driven candidate. Harris, the only woman in double digits in the CNN survey, got off to a great start with an overflow crowd of about 30,000 fans attending her announcement in her hometown of Oakland followed by an appearance on a CNN Town Hall that set a ratings record.

Where does that leave Kirsten Gillibrand?

Focus on families

Gillibrand needs to carve out her own niche in the Democratic presidential race. Her niche is a focus on families.

She made that clear when she announced her candidacy on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.” She said, “I’m going to run for president of the United States because as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own.”

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True to her word, Gillibrand has sponsored family friendly proposals that may not be hot button national issues but are matters of grave concern to many Americans.

Earlier this year, Gillibrand introduced legislation that would provide12 weeks of paid leave for workers to care for a new child or for a family member who is ill.

She also co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit Inslee seeking third term as governor after ending presidential bid MORE (R-Colo.) to fight the opioid crisis that plagues many families. The legislation would limit prescriptions to seven days

Speed bumps

Gillibrand has a very liberal voting record during her 10-year tenure in the Senate but she still hasn’t earned the trust of many progressives in the Democratic Party.

Her brave stand against sexual assault has created problems for her candidacy. Many progressive Democrats resent Gillibrand for calling on Franken — a liberal hero — to resign from of the Senate after he was accused of sexual harassment.

During her short tenure in the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2009, she was a Blue Dog Democrat with a decidedly moderate voting record. She has reversed positions on gun control and other hot button issues to become one of the most liberal members of the Senate.

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Democratic primary voters abhor the role of corporate money in politics. Big corporate contributions will be a problem for Gillibrand and other presidential hopefuls like Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-N.J.) and O’Rourke. Sanders and Warren will both profit from swearing off corporate contributions. Warren has upped the ante on the battle against money in politics by refusing to attend meetings with wealthy donors.  

To secure the Democratic presidential nod, Gillibrand hopes progressive primary voters overlook her transgressions and focus on her stellar voting record in the Senate. Gillibrand will try to reach the many Democrats who will cast a wide net to find a nominee who find a candidate who can end Trump's tenure in the White House.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. 

This is the seventh piece in a series of profiles by Bannon on 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Read his analysis on former Rep. Beto O’Rourkeformer Govs. Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper, former Vice President Joe BidenSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former HUD Secretary Julian CastroSen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)