Some were hoping to see former President Bill Clinton, others said they had nothing better to do at that time of day, while others still seemed to be more Bernie supporters. But one thing from Hillary’s campaign event in Cleveland on Sunday, which was supposed to showcase her appeal to millennials, was clear: enthusiasm for the former secretary of state was seemingly nowhere to be found.
What looked like a block-long line turned out to be a crowd that could barely fill one-fourth of a football field. And the students in attendance? Well, they weren't exactly there to support the former secretary of State.
“I am sort of a Bernie (Sanders) fan. I also had nothing else to do at 10 in the morning,” said Brian Miller, a chemical engineering student from Pittsburgh, waiting with more than a dozen friends for the event to start.
David Lituchy of Morgantown, W.Va., was there on the off-chance he'd see a different Clinton: “I am here for Bill. He would definitely liven things up here.”
He said he's leaning toward Sanders, too.
Such sentiment wasn't anecdotal; scores of students expressed it, and you didn't need to interview anyone to know that Clinton has political problems beyond her email controversy.
The event here wasn't just a failure to connect with millennials, but a fundamental inability to read her audience and adjust her speech — or perhaps laziness, or a sense of entitlement that she shouldn't have to work this hard for support.
Perhaps it was all of that.
Early speakers failed to fire up the crowds and efforts to do the same by the state’s former Gov. Ted Strickland, who’s running for a Senate seat in 2016, similarly flatlined. The obvious reason being that they had no clue who he was. And all of Hillary’s reminiscing about her 2008 run, well, you can guess what sort of reaction that elicited from a crowd that was barely in their teen years at the time.
To top it all off, the campaign made attendees sign a pledge of support before they could enter the venue.
Whether the event is foretelling of her campaign as a whole remains to be seen but one thing was clear: Clinton was absolutely uninspiring, reflecting a difficulty her party as a whole is having heading into the election.
“The Democrats’ biggest problem right now is enthusiasm,” one recent poll notes. Thus, if what happened at the Cleveland event mirrors other Clinton events, Zito notes, “it is a peek into one of the least talked about aspects of populism: not showing up to vote.”
Looks like Team Clinton may have more than just the email scandal to keep them up at night.