- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2015

After two weeks of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s charm offensive to repair her image that has been damaged by the email scandal, her free fall in the polls stopped Monday with a new survey that showed her rebounding to increase her lead over rival Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Mrs. Clinton’s supporters credited the turnaround to the campaign “reset” earlier this month in which the former secretary of state undertook a concerted effort to add warmth to her personality and passion to her stump speech. But veteran Democratic campaign strategist Hank Sheinkopf said that the comeback was more about Mr. Sanders slipping than Mrs. Clinton rallying.

“It is attributable to her meeting more voters and people listening more to what Bernie Sanders has to say. The same way as in the Republican Party, the more they listen to Donald Trump, the more likely it is that others will move [up], which is exactly what’s happening,” said Mr. Sheinkopf, who formerly advised President Bill Clinton.

“It has less to do with charm than it has to do with reality. Reality always occurs when people get close to voting,” he said. “When they get in the voting booth, suddenly something hits them in the head. And what is happening here is people are being hit in the head when they think about Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.”

Mrs. Clinton extended her lead over Mr. Sanders to 18 points, 42 percent to 24 percent, in a CNN/ORC poll released Monday. She led Mr. Sanders by 10 points, 37 percent to 27 percent, in the same poll taken the first week of September.

In the most recent survey, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who is still mulling whether to enter the race, finished in third place with 22 percent of the vote among Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents.

Without Mr. Biden in the poll, Mrs. Clinton’s advantage over Mr. Sanders grows to a 29 points, 57 percent to 28 percent.

Mrs. Clinton has consistently led Mr. Sanders in national polls, though the margins have been striking. Mr. Sanders remains in the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, which host the country’s first two nominating contests.

Still, the results of the CNN/ORC poll were welcomed in Clinton world as a sign that that the former first lady, senator and secretary of state had found her footing in the race.

Mrs. Clinton has been sliding in the polls for weeks as she struggled to respond to the controversy over her exclusive use of a private email account for official business as secretary of state, which has grown to include an FBI probe of her handling of classified material that conceivably could lead to criminal charges.

She also struggled to respond to Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent and avowed socialist whose liberal agenda and call for a “political revolution” has caught fire with young voters, pushing him ahead of Mrs. Clinton in early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“She seems to be connecting more,” said Janet Moore, New Hampshire Democratic Party chair for the town of Andover.

Ms. Moore said she was a longtime Clinton supporter, but had new confidence in her candidacy after hearing Mrs. Clinton’s revamped stump speech at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention Saturday.

“She was very much at ease, very specific, very goal-oriented and very relaxed with the crowd,” she said. “I think she may connect more now with young people.”

Mrs. Clinton has added more references to the economic hardships faced by her parents to frame her agenda to combat income inequality and improve the lives of middle-class families.

“I’m the granddaughter of a factory worker who believed in America,” she said at the top of her speech to the party leaders in New Hampshire, before launching into promises to champion the “kitchen table” issues that worry middle-class families and restore the basic American bargain that hard work will be rewarded.

In addition to a more emotionally-charged stump speech, Mrs. Clinton has highlighted the lighter side of her personality with appearances on TV talk shows, including the Ellen Degeneres Show and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Mrs. Clinton attempted to erase the impression that she is inauthentic Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” when asked to describe in three words “the real Hillary Clinton.”

“Just three? I can’t possibly do that!” Mrs. Clinton said, breaking into laughter. “I mean, look, I am a real person with all the pluses and minuses that go along with being that. And I’ve been in the public eye for so long that I think, you know, it’s like the feature that you see in some magazines sometimes, ‘Real people actually go shopping,’ you know?”

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