Authenticity is like pornography; you know it when you see it. It’s not something polling can accurately measure, but it’s something voters crave and reward when they get it. Which is why advertising doesn’t work. Voters want to see candidates unscripted and unvarnished.
In early 2008, Clinton’s campaign was a battleship of inevitability without much message. Then she lost Iowa, and went from front runner to down double digits in New Hampshire. Then there was an incredibly authentic moment that cameras captured just a day or so before the election. She was asked a softball question by a supporter at a town-hall event, and for once she tossed the talking points.
She was clearly not feeling well, had lost some confidence, and likely feeling vulnerable. In other words, human. Like all the rest of us. And she teared up just a bit and talked about why she was running, and why the struggle was important. And she articulated a clear rationale for her candidacy. It was simple, quiet, moving, and real. And 24 hours later, she erased what was thought to be an insurmountable deficit and won New Hampshire.
Why didn’t that lesson stick?