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16 Crucial Stories About Hillary Clinton And Her Campaign

From Chappaqua to Comey, we sought to tell her story and the story of a long campaign.

Posted on November 7, 2016, at 10:52 a.m. ET

When did Hillary Clinton's campaign for president begin? Was it April 12, 2015, when she announced this run? Or Jan. 21, 2007, when she announced the last one? Feb. 6, 2000, when she announced her run for Senate? Or some earlier moment — Wellesley, why not? — when she first saw how she could reach that prize?

We started covering the campaign — this campaign — soon after Barack Obama's 2012 re-election. Ruby Cramer reported on the early stirrings — a provocative tribute video, a ripple of expectation in her hometown of Chappaqua, and on the real mechanics (in February 2013) of a presidential campaign.

Cramer reported on people — Huma Abedin, for instance — who would later become central to the 2016 narrative; and on positions and comments that would later emerge as pivotal. In 2014 she started chipping away at a story few reporters have tried to approach since the 1990s: What is it like to know, and be, Hillary Clinton? And that November, Cramer offered the definitive look at the shadow campaign.

Here's what happened next, in her and other BuzzFeed News reporters' words and two memorable interviews:

1. The 20-Year Hillary Clinton Humanization Project (April 2015)

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

There are, in her telling of the story, two Hillary Clintons: the person she knows, consisting of “different, and sometimes paradoxical, parts”; and the person the public sees, as in a museum, the “most recognizable woman in America,” but “reduced to a snapshot.”

“The truth is that sometimes it is hard even for me to recognize the Hillary Clinton that other people see,” she wrote.

Twenty years later, Clinton is perhaps better understood and better liked. But the distance between the person and the public figure remains.

As she prepares to run for president a second time — with plans to run a more open, humble, approachable operation — her campaign staff will spend the next 100 days trying to solve the same challenge Clinton herself alluded to in the 1995 column: how to make the “real” Hillary accessible.

2. Two Actual Everyday Americans Walk Into a Hillary Clinton Event… (May 2015)

Ruby Cramer / BuzzFeed News

…and get crushed. The challenges of the “everyday” campaign.

3. The Robby Mook Playbook (June 2015)

Courtesy of David Boyle

For many of the affiliated, Team Robby is as much about its leader as the political philosophy he champions: namely, the power of “organizing.”

Mook is now at the helm of Clinton’s second presidential campaign — and that model will be tested like never before, on the biggest stage there is. In each of the early states, he’ll construct what he did eight years ago in Nevada: a true organizing program.

It will be the biggest challenge of his young career. Mook has managed plenty of races since 2008. Most recently, he helped Terry McAuliffe, the longtime Democratic fundraiser and Clinton family friend, become governor of Virginia. But now Mook is running a campaign larger than his background in field. And to accomplish what he does best, he’ll have to foster the environment his campaigns require.

At the center of the intractable, messy thing known as “Clintonworld,” Mook needs another Nevada: that rare mix of discipline and accountability with enthusiasm and encouragement that makes his field programs possible.

It will be a momentous first — for Mook, for his followers, and for a generation of operatives who see themselves as organizers. Never before has a manager constructed a national campaign operation like this, so deliberately or so squarely, under the banner of organizing or in the mold of the so-called engagement campaign.

4. Hillary Speeds Through Parade, Ignores Protesters, Ropes Off the Press — and Insists She’s Having Fun (July 2015)

As soon as she started down Route 2 — the main drag of this small town in the state’s North Country — Clinton was still smiling, but something had shifted.

This was not the back porch in Glen, garden and lily-pad pond below. As she moved in front of a large contingent of supporters, many holding signs with the “H” logo of her campaign, Clinton was trailed by three loud and persistent protesters for the entirety of the parade. They followed even as Clinton’s pace quickened, greeting residents along the way on both sides of Route 2.

The most vocal heckler, Carl Gagnon, 59, from nearby Berlin, carried a poster that read “Benghazi” in black ink, with red droplets hanging like blood from each letter. He walked along the right shoulder of the road, always parallel to Clinton, hoisting the sign in the air as he maneuvered past voters hoping for a handshake.

“Where were you at 3 o’clock in the morning when the phone rang?” Gagnon yelled.

“Tell us about when you were POOR!”

The fans behind Clinton chanted back. “Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!”

“HILLARY, where were you at 3 a.m. when the phone rang on Sept. 11?”

5. Secretary Clinton, What's Good? (October 2015)

Clinton appeared on BuzzFeed's Another Round podcast for an unusually open conversation about race, pop culture, and why she never seems to sweat.

6. How Voters Try and Fail to Talk to Hillary Clinton (and Sometimes Succeed) (August 2015)

Win McNamee / Getty Images News DES

It’s a simple request to make of another human being. But for voters who want a conversation with Clinton — now four months into her second presidential campaign — the proposition remains more difficult and complex than with perhaps any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.

At many of Clinton’s public events, causal interaction is overwhelmed, and often made altogether impossible, by a spectacle that neither she nor her aides can much control: the aggregate effect of, in varying degrees, the media attention she commands, celebrity status she assumes, and the Secret Service detail she has required, in public and private life, since the ’90s.

7. There’s No Evidence in Clinton White House Documents for Clintons’ Story on Anti-Gay Law (October 2015)

BuzzFeed News; Getty images

A BuzzFeed News review of the thousands of documents released earlier this year by the Clinton Presidential Library about same-sex couples’ marriage rights and the Defense of Marriage Act found no contemporaneous evidence to support the claim that the Clinton White House considered a possible federal constitutional amendment to be a concern when they supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

“We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress,” Bill Clinton told an audience in 2009, “to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states.” Hillary Clinton just last week called her husband’s decision to sign DOMA “a defensive action.”

But in the documents, which include correspondence from a wide array of White House and Justice Department officials, no one even hints that Bill Clinton’s thinking or actions regarding DOMA were animated by the threat of a federal constitutional amendment.

8. Hillary Clinton Wants to Talk to You About Love and Kindness (January 2016)

In the early days of her husband’s administration, Hillary Clinton tried to start a national conversation about basic human decency, only to be mocked. In the midst of the most mean-spirited presidential campaign in memory, she talks with BuzzFeed News about the unchanged way she sees herself — and if she’ll ever be able to communicate it.

9. Clinton Faces Hard Reality of Unity in Trump Country (May 2016)

Candice Branham likes Donald Trump. But that wasn’t the reason she stood for hours last week in the rain, waiting to protest Hillary Clinton in Williamson, a small coal town in West Virginia. “I’m for whoever,” the 29-year-old said. “I’m not for Hillary.”

Around Branham, scattered voices rang out from the crowd — people shouting about coal, about “baby-killers” and “tree-huggers” and Hillary the “crook.” But after Clinton’s motorcade pulled to a stop in downtown Williamson, the message from the protesters was the same. “Hillary. Go. Home,” they chanted together. “Hillary. Go. Home.”

Branham gestured to the crowd. “She shouldn’t even bother coming here.”

This was the sentiment heard outside Clinton events across West Virginia — where she lost this Tuesday’s Democratic primary to Bernie Sanders but chose to begin her bid in the general election last week during a three-state tour of hard-hit Appalachia.

For more than 30 minutes, Bill Clinton stayed to argue every point, turning a routine retail stop at Tia Sophia’s, a New Mexican restaurant here in Santa Fe, into a one-on-one debate with Brody, a recent graduate of New York’s New School, who said he supported Hillary Clinton’s Democratic challenger.

11. DNC and Clinton Campaign Operations Started Merging Before Sanders Dropped Out (July 2016)

AFP / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton and Democratic National Committee staffers began the gradual process of merging operations and consolidating key campaign functions weeks before the primary ended, emails in last week’s WikiLeaks release show.

12. Pneumonia Episode Highlights the Protective “Cocoon” Around Clinton (September 2016)

Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Whether the news would have been shared with the public, or even within the campaign, were it not for the video, was a more obvious question to many.

“Never. Never ever, ever, ever,” one longtime Clinton ally answered Monday.

The reason has little to do with pneumonia or the candidate’s health.

To understand it, according to interviews and conversations with people inside and outside the campaign this week, is to understand something about Clinton in this particular moment — some 50 days from maybe parting ways with more privacy in the around-the-clock “protective” media bubble of the White House, and some 25 years into a career in public life that friends and former aides describe as more “insulated” than ever within a tight inner circle, sometimes leaving all but a few people on the campaign with limited information about their own candidate.

13. How a Decision in May Changed the General Election (September 2016)

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

That month, the candidate and her team of aides in Brooklyn set out on a new approach, outlined for the Democratic National Committee in an internal email that landed in the communications shop as something of a shock. “They want to make Trump look even more extreme than the rank-and-file Republican member of Congress,” the DNC’s deputy communications director wrote on the night of May 13, summarizing a conversation earlier that evening with Clinton’s rapid response director, Zac Petkanas. “He doesn’t want to link the House and Senate Republicans to Trump,” the message read.

The bottom line?

“The campaign does not want to connect Trump and the Republican Party.”

14. Hillary Clinton Already Knows the Bad Thing You Said (October 2016)

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

For the aides who have worked with Clinton in close proximity on campaigns, the hyper-specific and obscure jab, delivered with on-the-spot precision, is their boss’s trademark. As described by current and former staffers, Clinton is a candidate who insists on being “humongously prepared,” who consumes research with “obsessive” rigor — and who, perhaps more than most elected officials, delights in the art form known by political professionals as “oppo."

15. WikiLeaks Appears to Release Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speech Transcripts (October 2016)

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s closed-door paid speeches, including to financial firms, appeared to be made public for the first time on Friday when WikiLeaks published hundreds of hacked emails from her campaign chairman.

The speech transcripts, a major subject of contention during the Democratic primary, include quotes from Clinton about her distance from middle-class life (“I’m kind of far removed”); her vision of strategic governing (“you need both a public and a private position”); and her views on Wall Street, health care, and trade policy (“my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”).

16. 24 Totally Normal Hours on the Trail With Hillary Clinton (October 2016)

Brian Snyder / Reuters

The FBI, Anthony Weiner, Iowa, and big smiles: the weirdest and yet most normal day for a campaign and candidate almost bizarrely unfazed by crisis.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.