On Saturday, the group Ready For Hillary—now simply called Ready PAC—hosted its last event before Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign. Paul McClure was there, selling his CDs and chatting up local television reporters. When Clinton made her announcement official on Sunday afternoon, McClure says he was the first person to call her freshly open-to-the-public campaign office in Brooklyn. After seven long years, McClure and Clinton's mutual wait was finally over.
The name Paul McClure may not be familiar to many political junkies, but his face likely is. He is the man behind "Hillary in the House," a song he wrote during the 2008 presidential campaign, which went somewhat viral in political circles. McClure made three videos for the song, but the most popular video shows McClure belting out "Hillary in the House" alongside a group of Clinton volunteers in San Antonio.
And, while simplistic, the song's refrain is a real earworm:
Seven years later, McClure is an actor living in New York who would like nothing more than to be the face of Clinton's 2016 campaign. The earnestness of Clinton's 2008 superfans—and their continued excitement about the prospect of another Clinton White House—shows just what a galvanizing figure Clinton can be to her supporters. And while someone like McClure, who enjoyed a semi-viral hit seven years ago, may not seem like an important figure in a presidential campaign, his raw enthusiasm makes him the perfect antidote to the ambivalence the Clinton team faces in the midst of her political relaunch.
McClure recalled briefly meeting Clinton when he was working as a caterer at a fundraiser she attended in New York during her 2000 Senate campaign. McClure said he became a Clinton fan after watching a tense moment in a debate against her opponent, Rick Lazio.
"He really, really mouthed off at this debate, and she just took a breath, and she looked at him square in the face, and she didn't say anything derogatory, but she was appropriate and she got the message out to him," McClure said. "And I said, 'There she is. That's why I'm voting for her.'"
McClure originally wanted the music video for "Hillary in the House" to have a "Main Street, USA" vibe, with a ticker-tape parade and vintage cars lining the streets. Seth Panman, who directed the music video, asked McClure if he had the $2 million in production costs that type of video would require. He did not.
"I can give you something for way less, but it will still be just as effective," Panman says he told McClure at the time. "But I've gotta warn you, it might come off as a parody instead of something serious."
The finished product still ended up costing McClure $20,000, which he largely paid for out-of-pocket. It was filmed in upstate New York, and features McClure sporting a red, epauletted jacket, dancing among a crowd of sign-waving supporters in an auditorium.
The video's cheesiness, combined with McClure's utterly earnest delivery, made "Hillary in the House" ripe for parody. On the television show The Good Wife, a campaign video for one of the characters—titled "Peter Is the Man"—closely resembled the "Hillary in the House" video. After finding out about it, McClure sued, and eventually got a $14,000 settlement.
When "Hillary in the House" came out, McClure was convinced his passion could make an impact.
"His vision was that she might be like 20,000 votes from winning, and this video would put her right over the top," Panman told National Journal.
A viral video might not be the difference between winning an election and losing it, but having a good Internet presence now is more important than ever. And the Internet loves earnestness. Earnestness is shareable. And it's a virtue that Clinton's campaign—which has weathered criticism that, as a candidate, Clinton can be overly scripted—could benefit from.
Songs inspired by the 2008 campaign, from will.i.am's "Yes We Can" to amateur songs like "I Got a Crush"¦ on Obama" and "Raining McCain" were almost blindingly earnest, to the point of achieving Deep Irony. But if anything, the irony and snark that's imbued in political-messaging today leaves a nostalgia-sized hole in the hearts of people who yearn for a return to sincerity.
If McClure represents raw enthusiasm in the pantheon of Hillary Clinton 2008 superfans, Gene Wang represents raw sincerity. Wang, an entrepreneur and tech CEO, wrote the song "Hillary 4 U & Me," an upbeat ditty whose chorus echoes the Jackson Five's "ABC":
When reached by phone last week, Wang had not yet heard about Clinton's then-planned announcement.
"Yay! That's fantastic!" he told National Journal. "You're telling me some very good news."
After "Hillary 4 U & Me" came out, Wang—whom you can see playing the flute in the original music video—wrote a follow-up song for Clinton's 2008 campaign, a Parliament-esque jam titled "Hillary in the House." (Wang said he had not heard McClure's song by the same name.)
"I don't know exactly what possessed me, but I decided, 'You know, I'm going to write a song for Hillary,'" Wang said. "I just kind of do these kind of songs for fun."
After "Hillary 4 U & Me" gained some notoriety within the Clinton campaign, Wang was invited to perform the song at a California fundraiser that Clinton attended. Wang put a photo of Clinton standing with his band on a mouse pad.
"She came up and hugged my daughter and shook the hands of every band member," Wang recalled. "It was one of the really memorable events in my life."
Along with their sincerity, people like Wang and McClure value resilience in their own lives—McClure as an actor trying to find more prominence and Wang as a "serial entrepreneur" used to the failures inherent in the start-up world. In a way, it's the same type of resilience Clinton has shown in her own 20-plus-year political career.
"As an entrepreneur who's always starting up companies, I'm very frequently ahead of my time," Wang said. "I think I have a good nose for winners, and sometimes it just takes a little longer than you expect."
McClure is planning a reboot of "Hillary in the House" for 2016. (You can also find the "Club Mix" version of the song on Spotify.) He envisions the new version with a barbershop-quartet-style introduction, which he regaled this reporter with during a phone interview. He says most of the lyrics from the original version will remain the same, except "2008" will be replaced with, "Like Tony the Tiger, she'll be grrreat!"
Ideally, he'd like to record a new video for the song with Jimmy Fallon (take heed, Tonight Show producers). And he knows how he'd like it to end.
"At the end, we would end up at the barbershop again, and hopefully the barber chair would turn, and the newspaper would come down, and it would be Hillary saying, 'I approve this message,'" McClure said. "It would be awesome, right? Dream big."