One of the truisms about politics is that if people have stereotype of you, any action you take to remind people of it, no matter how small, will make the stereotype stick. An example I always use is of Andrew Cuomo in his first campaign for Governor in 2002. People felt that his major downside was his arrogance and abrasive personality. He was fighting an uphill battle for both the Democratic nomination and winning the election against incumbent George Pataki. Commenting about the aftermath of 9/11, Cuomo declared that Pataki couldn't hold Giuliani's coat. This mean spirited comment cemented the perception of abrasiveness in the public's mind. Cuomo knew he had to change this perception if he ever wanted to become Governor. He spent years doing this, first became Attorney General and then Governor in 2010.
Hillary Clinton has a similar perception problem. That is that that she is secretive and operates by her own set of rules. This started with the health care reform plan she put together during the Clinton administration. This was done through closed meetings with her hand picked group of experts. There was little outside input from the public or Congress. This created a negative perception about the plan that preceded and helped obscure the actual details of it. Similar questions about the "Clinton Rules" have dogged her over the past two decades.
Now we have the email server issue. Unfortunately for Hillary this continues and reinforces the bad perception trend. The perception is that Hillary seemed to feel that the rules that applied to her that applied to other Federal employees, that is don't use a personal server for business emails. Now it may be that all was legal and but the bad perception persists. This has given the Republicans an opportunity to go after her and potentially make a mountain out of this molehill and keeping the headlines generating headlines.
Hillary needs to overcome the stereotype by being the strong leader on issues that many of us who support her know she is. That means boldly stating her positions and not taking the safe road so she can generate headlines of her own. The campaign has tried to keep her insulated and taking the safe road to the nomination thus far but the success of Bernie Sanders, the Biden rumors, and even show that the public has an appetite for a new "genuine" type of candidate. Fortunately, it appears the campaign is getting the message. Hillary is generating headlines speaking out on issues such as women's rights, climate change and gun violence. Her recent appearances on Sunday morning talk shows and Saturday Night Live show a more comfortable, confident Hillary. Her appearances have shown her leadership, command of issues and sense of humor naturally, not in a way that sometimes seems forced or awkward.
Despite the months of bad headlines, Hillary still remains strong in the polls showing a strong reservoir of support. However, her support has slipped and there are a number of Congressional hearings and accompanying headlines still to come. She has to make sure her strengths come through and people forget the stereotype that has followed her for 25 years. She must show that she is a leader open to the people not above them. She plays by their rules and is the right person with the intelligence and strength to lead the country. The strong, confident, smart Hillary is the person her supporters want to see and the more the public sees this Hillary the more they will get behind her and allow her to move beyond the stereotype.