Hillary Clinton's Stump Speech Reveals Careful Approach To Campaigning

Sep 13, 2016
Originally published on September 13, 2016 6:26 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As candidates for president travel around the country, they often deliver the same speech or close to it. This week we're breaking down the speeches delivered by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to give you a sense of what they're talking about and how they say it. We're joined now by NPR's Tamara Keith who figures she's heard Hillary Clinton deliver her stump speech hundreds of times hundreds of times (laughter). Here there, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Not a precise number, but (laughter)...

CORNISH: Not a precise number.

KEITH: I can't keep count.

CORNISH: And it's not exactly the same speech every time, right? How does she approach them?

KEITH: You know, I like to think of it like a book shelf. Clinton probably has 50 books on the shelf - various elements of a speech, anecdotes, policies she talks about, themes, turns of phrase. And for each speech, she grabs a bunch of different books off the shelf.

So even if she gives three speeches at different events in the same day, they will be three totally different speeches made up of things that she says regularly. And she's constantly adding to the library each time she gives another one of her major policy speeches.

CORNISH: All right, well, walk us through a recent speech.

KEITH: So last week she was at the University of South Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: Hello, Tampa.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Hello, USF.

(CHEERING)

KEITH: And one thing she always does is thank dignitaries. Now, every politician does this, but Hillary Clinton takes it to another level. Let's take this shout out to State Senator Arthenia Joyner, who Clinton said she had known for 25 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: I have known Arthenia long before she was in elected office. But she's always been an activist, always trying to make things better for people.

KEITH: And of course this enforces the basic fact about Hillary Clinton that she's been in politics for decades and seems to know everyone.

CORNISH: OK, those are the kind of opening, greeting moments, right?

KEITH: Yeah.

CORNISH: What happens when Hillary Clinton gets to the heart of the speech? What does she talk about?

KEITH: It tends to be a mix of attacks on Donald Trump and a more affirmative message about what she's proposing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: I'm very proud that Tim Kaine and I are running a campaign of issues, not insults because I believe anybody who is asking for your vote for the most important job not just in the country but in the world should tell you what they plan to do.

I do have this - I guess it's an old-fashioned idea. If you're going to ask people for their vote, they ought to have some idea what they're voting for.

CORNISH: All right, so aside from talking about the idea of policy, how far does she get into detail about her own proposals?

KEITH: Well, let's take one section of her speech where she talks about jobs. The line that's in every speech she gives is that she wants to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. There's detail backing up her ideas on her website, fact sheets, position papers. And in her speech, it comes out as a big, long list which here we've cut together.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: We're going to make the biggest investment in new jobs since World War II - infrastructure jobs - our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our ports, our airports, our water systems, our sewer systems. We need a new, modern electric grid; clean, renewable energy.

CORNISH: So after she gets through her priorities, how much does Clinton actually talk about her personal life or her own life?

KEITH: She does some of that. She also talks about people she's met on the campaign trail. Quite often she talks about her parents. At small businesses, she almost always talks about her dad's drapery business. Other times she talks about her mom's very difficult childhood.

And in this Tampa speech, because she was on a college campus, she talked about when she first went to college and she was super nervous and she called home to her parents.

CLINTON: I said, I can't; I can't do this. It's too hard. Everybody here is smarter than I am. They're better prepared than I am. I want to come home. And my father, who didn't want me to go so far away to school anyway - he said, oh, good, come home. And my mother said, no, you have to stick it out. And if you feel the same way at the end of the year, then you can make a different decision.

Of course my mother was right. I loved it within a month or two. But I know what it feels like to show up and wonder, can you make it?

CORNISH: It's a personal story, but it does bring you to a section of the speech about policy, right?

KEITH: Exactly. Education, child care - she gets into parts of her agenda that you might put in the category of more personal policy. And here's another list we cut together.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: We're going to take on helping more people with mental health and addiction problems. And we're also going to make sure you can get quality affordable health care. And then we're going to help everybody with student debt. And I want to do more to make child care affordable. We should raise the national minimum wage. Let's guarantee equal pay for women's work, which will raise family income.

(CHEERING)

CORNISH: Tamara, that's domestic policy. How much does she emphasize national security?

KEITH: You know, it really depends on the speech and the setting and what's happening in the news that day. It tends not to be the bulk of her speech, but when she does talk about foreign policy, it is often in contrast with her opponent Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: We're going to work with our allies, not insult them. We're going to stand up to our adversaries, not cozy up to them. We're going to have real plans, not claims and secret plans.

KEITH: She talks about her own experience as senator and secretary of state. She often mentions being in The Situation Room at the White House during the raid that took out bin Laden. And in almost every speech these days, she talks about how Trump's rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims is out of sync with American values.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: We need to be the United States, not that Divided States of America. And yes, remember. As that sign over there says, I believe this too. Love trumps hate. Let's have a future that proves that's true. Thank you all. God bless you.

KEITH: And of course at the end, she always walks off stage to the same music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH")

MARVIN GAYE AND TAMMI TERRELL: (Singing) Ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river...

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith on Hillary Clinton's stump speech. Tomorrow we'll take a close look at Donald Trump's stump speech. Tamara, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH")

MARVIN GAYE AND TAMMI TERRELL: (Singing) Don't you know that there ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.