WASHINGTON — Waiting with the rest of the political media for Hillary Clinton’s press conference to begin Wednesday, I learned about her formerly infamous pink sweater.
I know what you’re thinking, but no, I didn’t sleep through the ’90s. At that point, I just cared more about Nickelodeon shows then than I did about politics.
For millions of voters like myself, the Clinton years exist only as a blur of modern-day pop culture references and vague understandings of what happened in the 1990s. Whitewater is the kind of rapids my dad took me to as a graduation present, and Monica Lewinsky isn’t symbolic of a great presidential failing — she’s more of a TV punch line.
So how did Hillary Clinton’s tech-focused press conference look to this member of the iPhone generation? Not great.
Her primary reason for using a personal email address — the convenience of carrying one mobile device instead of two — seemed unbelievable at first. For as long as I’ve needed to have two emails on a smartphone, modern operating systems and synced inboxes have made it a breeze.
Clinton skipped over the fact that Blackberrys used in 2009, when she took over as head of the State Department, couldn’t handle more than one inbox at a time. There’s also still confusion, as reported by The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump, about whether State Department officials could use their personal devices for work-related email.
By not addressing those limitations, her answer came across on first blush as contrived. And if her audience didn’t bother to read follow-up articles on 2009 mobile technologies — which 20-somethings might not be inclined to do — that first blush became the lasting impression.
After the press conference, the College Republican National Committee used a tweet by Terry Lathan, the chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, to seize that point. The CRNC retweeted this to its 59,000 followers, without adding the context about why Clinton couldn’t have had two emails on one phone.
— Terry Lathan (@ChairmanLathan) March 10, 2015
The idea that Clinton deleted her “personal” emails also can’t be sitting well with those of us who have grown up using email. We’ve been constantly told that if we don’t want something to be public, we shouldn’t put it online. If you delete an email or Facebook post, there’s still a faint — or not-so-faint — cyber trail left behind.
So even if those messages didn’t need to be handed over to the State Department (as Clinton did with roughly the other half of her emails), why delete the more mundane ones? Emails don’t eat up huge amounts of storage space, and deleting 30,000 of them sounds like an awful lot of work.
That being said, Clinton still has a formidable lead in early polling, and a Pew Research poll from two weeks ago found only 4 percent of 18-29-year-olds were following the email story “very closely.”
But because of her age and establishment reputation, Clinton will have a tougher battle to bring out young voters than Barack Obama did in 2008. Obama came from a recent background of being a community organizer in Chicago, making his “hope and change” message feel genuine.
With Clinton’s Washington resume, a similar attempt would feel canned — and that makes it even more important to pay attention to how young voters receive her message.
Reach reporter Sean McMinn at [email protected] or 202-408-1488. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns onFacebook and follow us on Twitter.