Wed, Jul 27, 2016 - Page 9 News List

How can Hillary Clinton sell herself to voters who already know her?

After decades in the political limelight, the Democratic National Convention offers the former US secretary of state a chance to encourage voters to take another look at her

By ADAM NAGOURNEY  /  NY Times News Service, PHILADELPHIA

Illustration: Mountain People

Few conventions were as successful as when US Democrats gathered in New York in 1992 to nominate Bill Clinton for president. There was the Hollywood-produced Man From Hope video, a dramatic midtown Manhattan stroll by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton from Macy’s to Madison Square Garden and a six-day post-convention bus caravan that drew crowds all the way through its end in St Louis, Missouri.

As Hillary Clinton arrives in Philadelphia for her own nominating convention, she faces many of the same problems her husband encountered in 1992: She, too, is damaged after a bruising campaign and shadowed by a cloud of mistrust stirred by her actions.

While Bill Clinton was a relatively new, if battered, face, ready for his reintroduction in 1992, Hillary Clinton is a political institution. With one exception, she has spoken at every Democratic National Convention since 1996.

“If you don’t know the Clintons by now, you are never going to know them,” Republican former US House speaker Newt Gingrich said.

Donald Trump entered the Republican National Convention last week in Cleveland with the opportunity to recast the way Americans viewed him, a moment he arguably failed to seize, but Hillary Clinton’s task in Philadelphia is decidedly harder.

She has been a fixture on the US political scene for a generation, subjected to endless attacks, examination and analysis. She is a proxy in debates over feminism and political power and a recurring subject of parody on Saturday Night Live. Views about her — particularly on issues of trust after the US FBI investigation into her handling of e-mails as US secretary of state — are seared in place with many voters, pollsters say.

After 25 years, her days of reinventing herself are almost surely gone.

And yet these four nights in the public eye, particularly coming after Trump’s often chaotic convention in Cleveland, Ohio, offer her a chance to persuade important segments of the electorate to take another look at her, to consider parts of her life that have been lost in the glare of scandals and investigation and to judge her candidacy in contrast with the dark image Trump presented last week of himself and the nation.

That would start with supporters of US Senator Bernie Sanders, many of whom, particularly younger ones, learned much of what they know about Hillary Clinton through the prism of Sanders’ attacks and have been steadfast in their opposition to her — potentially all the more so after her choice of US Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a moderate, as her running mate.

However, just as crucially, she could find an audience with independent voters struggling between two candidates they do not like, who will have an opportunity after this week to make a direct comparison between the visions being offered by Hillary Clinton and Trump.

For nearly a year, Hillary Clinton has struggled to answer questions about her use of a private e-mail server, particularly after her conduct was excoriated by the FBI; Republicans have accused her of negligence, criminal mishandling of classified information and even treason. Rightly or wrongly, the most recent controversy is what has defined her most.

“She is someone with a long record in public life, but people forget,” said David Greenberg, a history and journalism professor at Rutgers University. “Younger voters, who don’t have the memory — or older voters with short memories.”

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