This month, Hillary Clinton has tweeted seven times. Two tweets came Monday in a less-than-280-character critique of a congressional "trifecta against women." Another was praise for the events in Selma. The most famous was her initial response to the e-mail controversy.
Twitter is a perfect medium for Clinton, who is followed by nearly 3 million accounts (as of this writing) and who follows only nine: Bill, Chelsea, and a slew of Clinton-affiliated nonprofits. It's as though 3 million people have signed up for terse press releases from Clinton and, belying the stated promise of the tool, almost no actual interactions with her followers. (One of the only exceptions: This cutesy exchange with Bill, which a cynic might think was calculated.) Toss your message over the castle walls and ignore all return fire.
We wrote in July about Clinton's play-it-safe campaign. Since then, things have not gotten much looser. Her news conference last week was an exceptionally rare moment in which Clinton engaged in an unscripted dialogue, to her obvious annoyance. Otherwise, it's been a series of public presentations, more paid speeches and an event earlier this month, which the Associated Press suggested included a casual conversation that was read off a teleprompter. It's also been tweets, which offer an excuse for brevity and allow for Clinton to simply say, 'I addressed it' -- even when she hasn't really. So little has been revealed about any policy agenda that the murkiness itself is a topic of conversation.
Some of this is the gut reaction of someone who has spent decades in politics -- a field in which being unscripted is the best way to ruin your career. Some of it is Clinton and/or the Clintons being the Clintons. Some of it, almost certainly, is scar tissue from the 2008 disaster. And some of it is a function of leading all of her Democratic opponents by a country mile (or, perhaps more accurately, by a country).
Contrast Clinton's campaign so far with Jeb Bush's. Neither is officially a candidate, but Bush has been making numerous public appearances, appearing at fundraisers and talking to the press. He's starred in online videos. He's tweeted three times as often as Clinton in March, often including photos or videos. And, of course, he tried to score points during the Clinton e-mail brouhaha by noting that he released the e-mails from his time as governor in bulk.
Bush has more ground to make up in his race, and Clinton is not yet really campaigning in the way that the Republicans are. Once she does, it's very possible that the castle walls will fall away and that she'll similarly bop around Iowa and New Hampshire, casually documenting her path to the nomination. These might be the Clinton 2016 Dark Ages, a tightly controlled era that is an anomaly.
It also might not be. The moment of Clinton's 2008 campaign that is normally cited as the most natural and honest was when she became emotional at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. That came as polling in the state looked bleak and she'd just lost Iowa to Barack Obama; she eventually won it and injected some life into her campaign.
Until the general election, it's unlikely she'll see that level of pressure, making it safe to wonder if we'll see that level of openness. So far, we haven't seen anything to suggest we will.