Hillary Clinton Ran Campaign Amid Unrelenting Email Controversy

Nov 8, 2016
Originally published on November 8, 2016 9:27 pm
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It is of course election night. We should be getting the first results within an hour. And right now we're going to talk about how we got here. Donald Trump's unexpected rise to the top of the Republican Party has rocked the political system. We will have more on that elsewhere in the program.

Now NPR's Tamara Keith has a look at how Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee of a major party and could become the first woman elected president of the United States.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: If you want to know the kind of campaign Hillary Clinton wanted and expected to run, go back to her first event in April 2015, a roundtable discussion at a community college in Iowa.

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HILLARY CLINTON: I think it's fair to say that as you look across the country, the deck is still stacked in favor of those already at the top. And there's something wrong with that.

KEITH: Clinton is by her nature a walk. She seems to thrive on listening to people talk about their concerns and developing public policy that could improve people's lives in ways large and small.

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CLINTON: Maybe it is a bit of a woman's thing because we make lists.

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CLINTON: We do. We make lists. And we try to write down what we're supposed to do and then cross them off as we go through the day and the week. And so I want you to think about our plans as our lists, our lists as a country.

KEITH: And maybe it was the universe's idea funny that this candidate who curls up with briefing books for fun would face an opponent in Donald Trump who simply doesn't bother with the details. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook says it was the candidate herself who decided the best course to take against Trump.

ROBBY MOOK: She also this spring as soon as it was clear that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee said straight up that he was unfit to be president.

KEITH: This isn't the normal way for a Democratic presidential candidate to run against a Republican, and it made some of her advisers nervous. It wouldn't be the typical fight about abortion rights, the size of government and tax policy. Clinton's decision meant each of Trump's Twitter wars or controversial statements would be added to a larger case she was building, a case she outlined in stark terms on the eve of the California primary in June.

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CLINTON: He is not just unprepared. He is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.

KEITH: There was a risk in this strategy that Trump could stick to the teleprompter and start being more presidential. But Clinton and her team were able to undermine that with a big assist from a man named Khizr Khan on the final night of the Democratic convention.

Khan told the story of his son, a soldier killed in combat in Iraq while protecting the others in his unit. The Khan family is Muslim and expressed dismay at the way Trump was talking about Muslims.

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KHIZR KHAN: Donald Trump, you're asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you. Have you even read the United States Constitution?

KEITH: He pulled a pocket Constitution out of his suit jacket and changed the course of the presidential race. Trump hit back at Khan and his wife, drawing scorn from Democrats and Republicans alike. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook says neither Khan nor anyone on the campaign had any idea how much attention that speech would get from the public and Donald Trump.

MOOK: For him to show no regard for their sacrifice and attack them simply because he felt like his ego was damaged is - it's just frightening, and I think it was a wake-up call.

KEITH: This set up a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the campaign where Trump couldn't help himself from responding to perceived slights and made countless statements insulting immigrants, women, Latinos, all groups who if Clinton pulls off a win tonight will be part of her winning coalition.

Clinton's closing message at her final rally of the campaign in the wee hours of this morning spoke of an opponent she couldn't have imagined when she got into the race and one with whom she was able to draw the biggest contrast.

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CLINTON: And where we prove conclusively that, yes, love trumps hate. Thank you. Let's go vote, North Carolina.

MCEVERS: That was Tamara Keith, and she is with us now from the Javits Center in New York City. That's where Hillary Clinton will spend election night tonight. Hello, Tam.

KEITH: Hi.

MCEVERS: So how is the Clinton campaign? How are they feeling this evening?

KEITH: Well, I spoke with the campaign's political director a few minutes ago, and she said that they're feeling good about Florida. And Florida of course is a big, important swing state and one that they feel if they can pull off a win will really close Donald Trump's options to get to 270 electoral votes.

The reason they're feeling good is because there was a strong early voter turnout actually voting early but that it doesn't seem to have taken away from Election Day turnout. They say that as of, you know, 5:30 or so, Florida had already exceeded the voter turnout it had in 2012, and that makes them feel good.

They're getting some encouraging signs out of Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Michigan. Those are states that had very little early voting, basically no early voting. So Election Day is game day, but they're seeing signs that are encouraging. When it comes to Ohio, that's a state that is going to be a nail-biter. But it's a state that they feel confident they can still get to 270 electoral votes without winning it.

MCEVERS: You know, talking about how Hillary Clinton has gotten to this point, I mean she is the first woman nominee of major political party. How much have - how important has that been for her supporters?

KEITH: You know, there have been times when Hillary Clinton didn't really focus on it as a candidate and when, you know, her supporters felt like they didn't want to vote for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman but for other reasons. And so they had sort of conflicted feelings about it. I think many of those conflicted feelings have passed.

And today at the gravesite of Susan B. Anthony, there were people lining up, putting I voted stickers on it. I just think back to a moment in Sacramento, Calif. There was a woman at a rally crying, and I asked her what was wrong, and she just said, it's been a long time coming.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. We will talk to you again tonight. Thank you very much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.