As the prohibitive favorite to secure the Democratic Party's nomination, Hillary Clinton is in the unique position of being able to adopt an early campaign theme of self-abnegation. The clear message of her launch video was: it's not about me, it's about you. Today, according to a local ABC news affiliate in New Hampshire, she's taking that a step further by handing the keys to her Twitter account over to a small-business owner, Mary Jo Brown.
Hi there! I’m Mary Jo—a mom, small business owner, and Granite Stater—and I’m taking over this Twitter account today. Welcome to Portsmouth!— Mary Jo for Hillary (@HillaryClinton) May 21, 2015
Brown runs Brown & Company, a 10-person design shop out of Portsmouth that's been operating for more than 20 years.
Clinton's campaign tells WMUR that the goal is for Brown to use the account to provide "a window into the life of a small-business owner" rather than broadcast campaign messages per se.
Ready to start the day at @BrownCoDesign! We’re a strategic design firm, based in Portsmouth, NH for 23 years. pic.twitter.com/S5oPSoS6tn— Mary Jo for Hillary (@HillaryClinton) May 21, 2015
Obviously a stunt like this is unlikely to drive huge numbers of voters to Clinton's campaign. But it is definitely an example of taking advantage of the luxury provided by a lightly contested nomination battle to do some deep structural work. Hillary is continuing to blow off the national press, and is largely letting the national political argument pass her by. Before turning her Twitter feed over to Brown, she exhorted supporters to follow her on her new LinkedIn page and join her email list. She's staying out of the intraparty fray on the Trans-Pacific Partnership but did get more than 1,000 retweets for a congratulatory message to David Letterman.
#ThanksDave—for two decades of laughs, insights, and, yes, even pantsuit jokes. @Letterman, you're a legend. -H pic.twitter.com/Cz9TDwTxAw— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 21, 2015
The theme of the week is the very non-newsy subject of small business. Clinton made some remarks about small business at a low-key Iowa event (which actually contained one provocative idea), and she made some LinkedIn-native content about her four-point plan for small business. But over on Twitter where the media's eyes are glued 24/7, it's going to be all about Mary Jo — subtly, steadily reenforcing the key idea that though Clinton may be a celebrity candidate, her campaign is really about millions of other people around the country.
Her Republican opponents, meanwhile, can't take this approach. Not because they're more egomaniacal, but simply because the presence of a robust field of candidates means that Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and the rest really do need to struggle to get attention for themselves personally. The contrast isn't really their fault, but Clinton is banking on it reflecting poorly on them — and she may be right.