Hillary Does Not Have a Winning Message

COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 18, 2016:  Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the crowd during the King Day a
COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 18, 2016: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the crowd during the King Day at the Dome rally at the S.C. State House January 18, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. The event drew appearances from Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

All the policy papers in the world can't do what a direct, easy to understand message with simple language about the future can do. For reasons no one can explain, Hillary Clinton still hasn't learned this lesson.

But at least John Podesta told David Brock to put a sock in it. After Chelsea Clinton's false attack against Bernie Sanders on health care, which brought more blow-back than support, the overreaction to polling told everyone watching all they needed to know about the state of the race.

Unresolved political challenges remain for Clinton, some of which have blindsided her supporters.

For all its institutional advantages, the Clinton campaign lags behind the Sanders operation in deploying paid staff members: For example, Mr. Sanders has campaign workers installed in all 11 of the states that vote on Super Tuesday. Mrs. Clinton does not, and is relying on union volunteers and members of supportive organizations such as Planned Parenthood to help her. [New York Times]

On Monday, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News reported that Rep. James Clyburn said that Bernie Sanders "has a much better organization here in South Carolina."

Consider Millennial women, Sanders, and Clinton.

There is a gender gap as well -- and not the one that favors Clinton among baby boomer women. Men under 35 support Sanders by 4 percentage points. Women back him by almost 20 points. The possibility of breaking new ground by electing the first female president apparently carries less persuasive power among younger women than their mothers' generation. [USA Today/Rock the Vote poll]

"Baby boomer women" are more reliable voters. But Sanders having a 20-point lead with Millennial women reveals real weakness in Clinton's message. Older women want a woman president in their lifetime and see Clinton as the last shot. Younger women are looking past gender to the candidate who is strongest on message and speaks to the challenges they face for the future.

The good news for Democrats is that Millennials prefer them to Republicans 41 percent to 28 percent.

Now to Hillary Clinton's phone-in interview on "Morning Joe" last Friday. A snippet of the exchange, emphasis added.

Mika Brzezinski: ... Having said that, my relationship with following your campaign has been rather complicated. I tell you, on the one hand, I still don't understand your message. What is it clearly? and I'll ask your advisers and supporters, "What's her message," and they'll go on and on and on and on, which is in some ways a great tribute to all the work you've done but it wasn't clear. Having said that, I've also said on the air I would also vote for you if you won. So let me ask you this, what clearly is the message of your campaign and is it authentic, unlike the way Vice President Biden alluded to the other day?

Hillary Clinton: Well, look, I'm running because we have to build on the progress that I think we've made under President Obama. Not let it get ripped away. And I have a lot of respect for my Democratic opponents but I believe I know what it takes and I have what it takes to do the job of president and that means every part of it. [...]

Clinton then went on to list all the things she wanted to do, much of her plans already complete with policy papers.

When I heard Brzezinski say she had a "complicated" relationship following Mrs. Clinton's campaign I remembered the article I wrote back in October, "Women for Hillary, It's Complicated."

But did I miss something here? Hillary Clinton told Brzezinski she's running for president to (basically) solidify President Barack Obama's accomplishments by continuing the progress. A third term for Obama is a first term for Hillary! That's great, but it's not clear messaging on why she's running, personally.

So why did Hillary Clinton couch her candidacy in terms of President Obama to Mika Brzezinski?

Clinton obviously knows why she's running but she's sending sound bite bait out to Obamaworld that "If you like him, you'll like me too."

It's a long way from, "I'm not running for Obama's third term, I'm running for my first term," which Clinton repeated often last fall.

Making your closing argument that you are Obama's third term, as Hillary Clinton has decided to do is understandable if you're behind and feel momentum getting away from you in the primaries. But it is not an inspiring message looking forward in a year where the establishment is out, Americans are angry and believe our country is headed in the wrong direction.

Love or hate Donald Trump, his message, however awful in substance, is simple and hasn't changed.

Neither has the message of Bernie Sanders.

Having been on the front lines of the 2007-2008 primary battle, Clinton's 2016 candidacy is not even close to the galvanizing, and flawed, campaign she fought back then. At least, they've raised a lot of money! But as Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, admitted, they're going to need a lot more because the campaign is now looking like a slog, a grind, and now on a much longer trajectory than they hoped or planned.

For Millennial women, as well as feminists looking to elect the first woman president, and for those who have been with Clinton since 2007, Hillary's case for president today doesn't sound, look or feel like what we've waited for at all.

Taylor Marsh is a political writer and cultural voyeur. She was profiled in the Washington Post and the New Republic for her reporting during the 2007-2008 election cycle. Her first novel, Below the Beltway, debuts on February 3, 2016.