September 9, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s Focused Group Tested Apology Didn’t Go As Planned

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton sat down for an interview with ABC’s David Muir, where she finally apologized for using a private email server while Secretary of State.

DAVID MUIR: Why haven’t you directly apologized for setting up and using a private email server as secretary of state?

HILLARY CLINTON: “Well, I understand why people have questions and I’m trying to answer as many of those in as many different settings as I can. What I did was allowed by the State Department. It was fully above board. Everybody in the government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email, and I have said it would have been a better choice to have had two separate email accounts. And I’ve also tried to not only take responsibility, because it was my decision, but to be as transparent as possible.”

Later that day, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported that Hillary Clinton’s “heartfelt” apology for her use of a private email server came only after the campaign focus group tested the issue:

In an Aug. 26 news conference, Mrs. Clinton said she understood why people had questions about the email arrangement, which she said came about as a matter of convenience so she could carry a single mobile device. She said she took responsibility for the decision to use the private server and said it would have been better to have used a private email only for personal matters and an official one for work.

 Last week, Mrs. Clinton’s aides showed a video of that news conference to a New Hampshire focus group of independents and Democrats, according to a Democrat briefed on the focus group whose account was confirmed by a person in her campaign. Participants said they wanted to hear more from Mrs. Clinton about the issue.

 The focus group also showed that the email issue was drowning out nearly everything else that Mrs. Clinton was hoping to communicate to voters — something Mrs. Clinton and her husband have complained about to friends.

The panel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Clinton’s apology for its flat tone.

Bloomberg’s John Heilemann, pointed out: “If you look at the tone that she had when she told the Snapchat joke right. You think about the verve with which she told it. That was from the heart. There’s was this sarcastic and kind of dismissive, but it was real. When she told that joke, she enjoyed telling that joke. With David Muir yesterday, she did not enjoy apologizing.”

NBC’s Chuck Todd reported: “No, and it did feel like this is the correct answer. That this is the, I think, Walter was putting it, that this was what she is saying what a bunch of donors and a bunch of nervous Democratic activists want to hear from her.”

NBC’s Peter Alexander echoed Chuck Todd’s claim:

Its seems that this push to show more “humor” and “heart” like everything else Hillary Clinton does is nothing more than a focus group tested pivot to save her campaign.