Nearly two years out, the battle lines of the 2016 general election are slowly starting to taking shape.
The pro-Hillary Clinton group Correct The Record will put out a memo to media outlets firing back what the group calls “Karl Rove style” attacks on the former Secretary of State’s “deep connection with the middle class.” And in it, Correct The Record doesn’t just play defense, but seems to emphasize emerging themes of what might be the economic message of a Clinton presidential campaign as well.
The memo, written by Correct The Record’s Executive Director Isaac Wright and exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast, initially focuses on pushing back at criticism over the speaking fees of up to $300,000 charged by Clinton to appear on college campuses, and her rider, which includes requests like diet ginger ale and a platter of crudité and hummus.
It dismisses this simply as “lame duck period attacks [that] lack the substance to connect with Americans in a serious way” as an attempt to undermine the connection with the middle class that the memo claims is Clinton’s strength. The story followed several awkward comments by Clinton about her personal finances in 2014 while promoting her memoir Hard Choices, including saying that she was “dead broke” after leaving the White House and asserting that she wasn’t “truly well off.”
Wright then quickly segues on to rote campaign-style talking points, which tout “Clinton’s extensive record of fighting for mobility and to advance the middle class.” As evidence for this, it cites her support for increasing the minimum wage and “progressive tax policies that required millionaires to pay their fair share” while serving in the U.S. Senate.
The group further tries to buttress this record by repeatedly citing Clinton’s stump speeches while campaigning for Democratic candidates in 2014. It references articles that show the former Secretary of State’s “tougher stance on big business” and “populist themes” while on the trail this year. The memo even goes back 40 years in the past to reference Clinton’s first job as a lawyer at the Children’s Defense Fund, a position that Wright asserts she took because of “her passion for opportunity and equality.”
The talking points represent little beyond a generic Democratic economic platform and could broadly be accepted by all wings of the party. Even the most Wall Street oriented Democrat is opposed in the abstract to “tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs” while the statement that “millionaires [should] pay their fair share” in taxes is a truism.
The memo also notably avoids mention of the Affordable Care Act although it praises Clinton’s efforts to expand health care coverage to children in the Senate through SCHIP.
It ends with the group reiterating that “one of Clinton’s biggest strengths [is] her passion for advancing the middle class and renewing American upward mobility” and urging that Democrats “not allow the right wing to mount a new ‘swift-boat’ campaign for 2016.”
The attacks that the memo rebuts aren’t terribly devastating. It’s not a shock that people pay a lot of money for Hillary Clinton to speak to them, and asking for hummus before a speaking engagement isn’t exactly diva-like behavior on par with prohibiting brown M&Ms. And while this memo tries to counter criticism on that front, it also emphasizes emerging themes of what a Clinton economic message in 2016 will likely be: moderate, tinged with populism, and focused – at least rhetorically -- on the middle class.
The platform may be updated for the 21st century, but it’s not very different in tone from the policies outlined by Bill Clinton nearly 25 years ago when he first ran for President. The question now is whether that message will still resonate with voters.