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The Week In Politics: Candidates Shift Their Strategies


And as Jeb Bush works to contrast himself with his brother, this week, he's also focusing on his differences with Donald Trump. But will that strategy work for Jeb Bush?

And on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is trying out a new strategy as well. She gave a rare TV interview to try to put an end to the controversy over her private email server, but her critics were not satisfied. Here to tell us more is NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Welcome.


WERTHEIMER: So, what - does Donald Trump have to self-destruct for Jeb Bush or any of the other Republican candidates to get some attention?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, it's an interesting question because, you know, Donald Trump had a stumble on Thursday in an interview with a conservative talk show radio host, Hugh Hewitt, when he confused the Iranian Quds Forces with Iraqi Kurds and wasn't able quite to distinguish between Hezbollah and Hamas. And that gave Jeb Bush an opening to say that you need to know the players if you want to be president.

Now, of course, nothing that Donald Trump has done so far has hurt his chances with his supporters, and this probably won't either. But for someone like Jeb Bush, Trump supporters really aren't the point. He's trying to win over the half to two-thirds of Republicans that don't want a Jeb Bush - or don't want a Donald Trump president or nominee. And as uncomfortable as Jeb Bush has looked in attempting to do this, I think in the end it's actually a pretty smart strategy, because it's elevated him to be the principal anti-Trump.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Hillary Clinton was interviewed by MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Friday. That's just her third national television interview since announcing her campaign. She said she's sorry there's been so much controversy over her private email server. She didn't apologize for the decision to use that private server. Does the apology settle things?

MONTANARO: Probably not, and, I mean, I think that the biggest issue here for her is that she apologized for the confusion, right? She didn't apologize for doing it. She sounded more contrite, and I think that this is part of what the campaign sees as a reset after Labor Day. Andrea Mitchell's interview is probably the first of several that they're going to wind up doing. She's going to be out there more.

She's not going to making the kinds of jokes about this like she did saying, hey, I love Snapchat because, you know, those messages disappear. She thought that she could play it off as a joke and found that backlash to that was very difficult to overcome. So you're probably going to see her do some more to try to be more contrite about this.

And they - her campaign thinks that as the primaries get closer, issues are what people are going to care about, and when it comes to perceptions of her having high unfavorable ratings, they say, look, elections are choices. Compare her to another Republican when she gets there - if she gets there - and then you can look at their favorability ratings, too. And none of them looks very hotly positive either.

WERTHEIMER: Hillary Clinton's former staffer who worked on her private email server said this week that he'll invoke the Fifth Amendment so that he won't have to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

MONTANARO: Right, now, his Fifth Amendment-invoking doesn't look like it has anything to do with classified material or a breach. It looks more like Bryan Pagliano's - who we're talking about, who worked on her server - looks more like this has to do with his failure to file a financial disclosure indicating that the Clintons had paid him personally to work on that server.

WERTHEIMER: So what about Joe Biden?

MONTANARO: Well, Joe Biden, you know, this week, he's sort of putting out - looks like a trial balloon. He's kind of an extrovert, and he likes to get energy off the campaign trail. And we're seeing him in Atlanta, seeing him in Florida. He's going to be Stephen Colbert's show. But it sounds like, when you look at his remarks to the DNC on a conference call - the Democratic National Committee - and in Atlanta, he looks like somebody who's had taken the wind out of his sails, doesn't quite have that emotional energy to run.

Now, in addition, there's been the surge of Bernie Sanders, who has had probably the best summer and is - you know, Joe Biden's going to have to compete, not just with Hillary Clinton, but Bernie Sanders, if he were to run anyway.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you so much.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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