What has Hillary Clinton been doing while Donald Trump has been careening from one controversy to the next? She's been traveling the country giving speeches about jobs, hammering Trump on the economy, and mostly avoiding press contact that could bring attention to her email scandal, the Clinton Foundation, or her record as Secretary of State. And then she talks more about jobs.
Clinton's speeches are boring. They don't make much news. But they're in line with voter concerns three months away from the presidential election.
In her Democratic convention acceptance speech, amid all the promises and proposals, Clinton made her top priority clear. "My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States," she said. Last week, still in convention afterglow, Clinton made a tour out West, giving speeches in Omaha, the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colo., and Las Vegas that all focused on meat-and-potatoes economic issues.
The Las Vegas event was in a union building, with a heavily union audience, so there was more emphasis than usual on organized labor. But the heart of the speech was the same as Clinton's other presentations; after all of the pleasantries and stroking that are involved in campaigning, Clinton stuck to a relatively small number of big issues that voters care about most. Step by step, here's the essence of what Clinton did in Vegas:
1) Thank local constituents — in this case, IBEW Local 357, the AFL-CIO, and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 525 "who assisted with parking."
2) Thank local officials — Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Dina Titus and Democratic Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto.
3) Establish big picture: "We are going to create more good jobs with rising income."
4) Promise 'investments' focusing on roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, the electric grid, etc. "For ever $1 billion, we get 47,500 jobs, and they are mostly good union jobs with a good middle class income."
5) Promise more collective bargaining rights to unions.
6) Promise to make college affordable and "debt free."
7) Promise national high-speed broadband Internet.
8) Remind people that Trump sells products made overseas.
9) Remind that big businessman Trump has sometimes stiffed small businesses working for him.
10) Praise a local small business (an IBEW shop, of course).
11) Pledge more technical education. "We need to invest in our young people and give them different paths besides four-year college to get ahead in America."
12) Promise free community college.
13) Remind again that Trump has mistreated small businesspeople.
14) Mention that her father was a small businessman.
15) Use example of Trump's Florida resort to imply (without actually saying) that she'll bring in fewer foreign workers to take American jobs.
16) Turn a Trump trademark against him. "You've got to ask yourself in this campaign, do you want a president who stands for you're fired or one who stands for you're hired?"
17) Mention Trump University.
18) Repeat Trump is unqualified and unfit to be president.
19) Mention one more time her plans for jobs, education, healthcare and more.
20) Sum up: "I think this election comes down to economic opportunity, national security, and American unity."
There wasn't a single headline in the entire 20-minute poll- and focus group-tested speech, or the others delivered in Nebraska and Colorado, which hit many of the same points. And by the way, Clinton's speeches are about one-third the length of Trump's unscripted performances, which often go over an hour, giving Trump far more chances to say something controversial.
Trump has often mocked the kind of speech Clinton gives. At a huge rally in Dallas last fall, Trump pledged never to give a canned presentation. "That would be so much easier," he said. "We read a speech for 45 minutes. Everybody falls asleep, listening to the same old stuff …"
Trump doesn't do that. His speeches are long, stream-of-consciousness affairs, with the potential to erupt into news at any moment. From Trump's perspective, Clinton's are the worst type of boring.
But boring can work. Look at Clinton's summation. Her presentation is entirely consistent with the issues that voters say are the most important in this election. Asked in the most recent Fox News polls which is the most important issue facing the country, voters most named the economy and national security. (The two topics were tied with 22 percent each.) When Clinton says, "I think this election comes down to economic opportunity, national security and American unity," she's not speaking off the cuff.
None of this means that Clinton, as president, might actually accomplish what she promises. For example, Clinton made big promises on jobs in her 2000 campaign for a Senate seat from New York, the Washington Post reported Sunday, and those promises came to nothing. Now, she's saying similar things again. It worked in New York in 2000 and 2006. Research and instinct indicate it's still what voters want to hear.
And she'll keep saying it. He might mock her, he might criticize her, he might give her new nicknames, but one thing Trump can count on is that Clinton will pursue her campaign relentlessly. She will never give up.
Think back to 2008, in her epic battle with then-Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. Clinton wasn't very good at campaigning. But her effort had a plodding, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other quality to it that suggested while Clinton could never be a spectacular candidate like her opponent Obama, she nevertheless would keep moving forward until she achieved her goal.
One can go a long way in life by putting one foot in front of the other. In '08, Clinton ran into an overwhelming force in Obama. Now, things appear to be lining up her way. She'll do boring to win, any day.