Head-to-head 2016 matchups suggest vulnerabilities for Clinton, particularly against Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who often talks about his love of professional football.
“Her challenge remains the same as it always has been — show voters who she is and reveal the person beneath the candidate,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton University. “To win people’s trust and to generate enthusiasm, she has to let some of her character come out.”
“She has so many qualifications: experience, knowledge, partisan skill,” Zelizer said, adding that the likability factor “is what she needs to work on.”
Team Clinton spent a good part of 2015 highlighting the former first lady’s personality, which they call warm and effusive. Clinton aides, longtime confidants and friends have always maintained she is charming and funny, at least behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight.
But they say after years of public service — and attacks by her political opponents — she’s hesitant to let that side show.
Since Labor Day, after a New York Times story reported that Clinton would show more “humor and heart,” the candidate has made a concerted effort to highlight her lighter side.
Since then, she appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as a bartender named Val, allowed “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon to pull on her hair playfully and sat down with Lena Dunham of “Girls” fame. During those interviews and others, the former secretary of State came across as a yoga-loving woman who loves to go for long walks and keeps up with the Kardashians.
Those efforts may have helped. A Bloomberg poll released late last month showed that her likability has gone up among Democrats from 23 percent in September to 31 percent. A Clinton aide said Tuesday she has always been “remarkably durable” among Democrats.
However, Democratic strategists and even those Clinton loyalists say it’s the unplanned moments that have worked best for her.
In emails released by the State Department this year, including a new batch this week, voters got to know about Clinton’s favorite shows and that she was trying to learn how to use emojis.