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Politics & Government

The Disconnect Between The Public And Private Hillary Clinton

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Hillary Clinton made history tonight becoming the first woman to win a major party nomination for president. She's done so even as many Americans say they don't trust her. Her close friends and family say there's a disconnect between the Hillary Clinton that they know and the one the rest of American knows. NPR's Tamara Keith has more.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: At the Republican convention last week, there were lots of words used to describe Hillary Clinton, but warm, funny and caring weren't among them. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it this way.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: I'm here to tell you Hillary Clinton will say anything, do anything and be anything to get elected president, and we cannot allow it.

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KEITH: Aside from Donald Trump, polls find Clinton to be the least-liked presidential candidate in recent history.

JUDY PRICE OSGOOD: I think it's weird because I think she's misinterpreted and misunderstood.

KEITH: Judy Price Osgood is a longtime friend of Clinton's, and she says she meets people regularly who say they don't like Clinton.

OSGOOD: It's like it's a gut thing. I like this. I don't like that for no particular reason. It's a hard thing to combat.

KEITH: But that's exactly what her campaign is trying to do tonight and with biographical ads that have been running in swing states for weeks. Osgood was among about half a dozen Clinton friends who I sat down with more than a year ago before she announced her candidacy. They've stayed friends since high school, in some cases since elementary school, still having the occasional slumber party even as they've become grandparents. Kathy Burgess describes Clinton as fun and an all-around great person but admits it doesn't come through well.

KATHY BURGESS: I think Hillary is misunderstood. We all know her as the way she's always been, and I think the public perception is somebody completely different.

KEITH: Someone cold, politically calculating with no moral compass who can't be trusted. That's what polling and discussions with voters indicate. Another childhood friend, Cheryl Harbour, wishes the rest of America could know her friend.

CHERYL HARBOUR: I've been in a couple of situations where people have met Hillary for the first time, and without exception, they like her. They have only seen what they've seen on the media. And then they spend a little time with her. They find the real person. They notice that warmth right away, that personal connection. If we could just take Hillary around people's homes...

KEITH: The apparent disconnect is nothing new for Clinton.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "In Focus" is a weekly public affairs presentation of Channel 8 television.

KEITH: Way back in 1979, as a guest on a local TV show in Arkansas, then Hillary Rodham was quizzed about not taking her husband's last name when they got married and keeping her job as a lawyer while being first lady of the state.

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HILLARY CLINTON: And I can only hope that whatever image people might have of either me or Bill, they will hold in advanced until they have an opportunity to meet us.

KEITH: At the time, she came off as sanguine about the challenge.

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CLINTON: All one can do is live the life that God gave you, and you know, you just do the best you can. And if somebody likes you or doesn't like you, that's really, in many ways, something you have no control over.

KEITH: Thirty-six years later, the stakes are now much higher. Whether Clinton can win in November may well depend on convincing voters that the Hillary Clinton her friends know is the one they should trust in the Oval Office. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.