Hillary Clinton Turns to TV to Remake Her Image

Hillary Clinton - H 2015
AP Images

Hillary Clinton - H 2015

With the Democratic frontrunner set to appear on 'The Tonight Show,' 'Ellen' and ABC News, some strategists are wondering: What took her so long?

Over the next week, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be doing evening news interviews and making day and nighttime appearances on popular talk shows in an effort to show her warmer side to win over voters.

Dogged by continued controversy over her tenure as Secretary of State and with her poll numbers falling in double-digit increments, Hillary Clinton’s aides have argued for an approach to campaigning that puts greater emphasis on the former Secretary of State's “humor” and “heart.”

NBC announced Tuesday morning that Clinton will be interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show on Sept. 16 — a late-night first for Clinton since she declared her candidacy in April. Clinton's sit-down with ABC News' David Muir is set to air Tuesday night, and she will also appear on Ellen DeGeneres' daytime talker during the Sept. 10 episode.

For some Democrats, however, Clinton’s new strategy is coming a bit late in the game. “Six months in and they’re finally doing talk shows?” said Los Angeles Democratic consultant Rick Taylor. “I just don’t get it. Why is this campaign so late on everything? Even Jeb Bush knows he has to be out there doing Stephen Colbert. It’s a no brainer. Her staff is so afraid to expose her, and I don’t quite understand it. Let her be herself. Let her show off. Let us get to know who she is.”

Late or not, that’s a strategy that deeply appeals to Clinton’s many Hollywood supporters who have been frustrated that voters haven't gotten to see the Hillary they admire and enjoy for her quick wit, thoughtfulness, spontaneity and flair for mimicry.

“She’s incredibly funny,” longtime Westside political consultant Donna Bojarsky told The Hollywood Reporter. “That doesn’t always come across to the public.”

Still, it won’t be an easy change of direction for a number of reasons, foremost among them the fact that many people feel they already know Hillary — and the woman they’re familiar with often has been perceived as stiff, cerebral and calculating. In the public eye Bill Clinton always was the likeable — if somewhat raffish — partner in the marriage.

With Clinton’s disapproval rating already over 50 percent in some polls, the former first lady needs to turn the tide of public opinion amid the ongoing controversies over Benghazi and the former Secretary of State's private email server.

“Honestly, the emails are a mini-scandal,” said one Washington insider knowledgeable about the Clinton campaign. “It’s not the whole election. But her campaign staff is trying to turn the page a bit and I think that’s smart. People have been preoccupied with the emails. She’s trying to put a punctuation point on it and get beyond it."

“She’s still electable. We’re still in the early days of the race. She’ll be able to show that she can take a punch or two and get up.”

Call that demonstration a makeover, a reintroduction or a reboot, the shift in the Clinton campaign is well underway. After saying as recently as Monday that she had nothing to apologize for in the email mess, Clinton gave ABC News an interview — her first on television in months — in which she admitted that using the private server for State Department communications “was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility,” Clinton said.

Earlier in the day Clinton, obviously mindful of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ growing populist appeal, gave an address calling for the overturning of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which ushered in the current era of super PACs. Clinton said the court’s ruling had created a “political system hijacked by billionaires and special interests.” The former New York senator also set out a detailed set of proposals that would cut back anonymous political donations, increase the role of small donors and expand the federal matching program.

?“Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee,” Clinton said.

?On the charm side of the equation, Clinton plans to showcase her spontaneous and humorous sides with appearances this week on both The Tonight Show and DeGeneres’ daytime chat program. “The talk show circuit will give her an opportunity to show a ?little more of her personality," said the Washington insider. Bojarsky agreed that "The talk shows will allow her personal side to come out more."

Meanwhile, Joe Biden who, though undeclared, is virtually the object of a draft movement.

In Pittsburgh, where he participated in a Labor Day parade, steelworkers marching behind the VP, repeatedly chanted “Run Joe run.” Later in the day, AFL-CIO president Richard L. Trumka told an interviewer that, “I think the race is still wide open,” and called Biden “a good friend of labor." Trumka is one of a handful of leading Democrats who last month met with the vice president in his residence to discuss a possible presidential bid.

?In fact, the latest national poll — a Monmouth survey — showed 42 percent of Democrats behind Clinton, 22 percent for Biden, though he has yet to decide on a run, and 22 percent for Sanders. More than seven out of 10 respondents said they have a favorable impression of the vice president.

Biden is also getting some love from members of the entertainment industry, including at least one high ranking exec who has traveled to Washington to meet with him. And he's also getting a bit of support from Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted Monday: “Looks like Biden is already running. Very likely he wins nomination and be hard to beat.”