When Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid last year, she and her advisers were determined to avoid the mistakes of her last campaign. They favored small meet-and-greets over large rallies. They drilled down on the liberal causes animating the Democratic base. They even deployed the candidate to late-night talk shows to highlight The Real Hillary.
But as the first nominating contest approaches, Clinton seems to be caught in a political time warp, buffeted by the same headwinds that felled her 2008 campaign as she seeks to blunt the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sunday’s debate will be her last big opportunity to change the dynamic before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.
With polls tightening in the Hawkeye State, Clinton is again emphasizing her experience and toughness and painting her surging opponent as a naïve politician who is overpromising sweeping change, especially on health care. On Tuesday, she reprised a main line of attack that she used against Barack Obama eight years ago. “I wish we could elect a Democratic president who could wave his magic wand and say, ‘We shall do this, and we shall do that,’” she said. “That ain’t the real world we’re living in!”
For his part, Sanders is channeling Obama’s past bid, pledging to lead a political revolution while painting Clinton as an establishment politician—a message that is resonating deeply with political independents and young people, the same kind of voters who boosted Obama eight years ago. Sanders’s aides have suggested they would mount a similar state-by-state delegate chase to clinch the nomination.