It happens almost like clockwork, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton casts her gaze out over the crowd at her town hall style event looking for someone to call on, and then she spots cuteness.
Clinton’s stump speech has changed from the summer when she was seen as the prohibitive front runner, to the fall when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders started gaining on her, to today with Sanders leading in New Hampshire and quite possibly in Iowa too. But one part of her campaign has not — her habit of calling on kids at her town hall style events.
Her campaign says she has called on more than 500 people since she started running for president last spring, and child questioners make up only a small share of that total (she was asked at least 29 questions by kids since July). But they are by far the most memorable, and a couple have wound up in campaign ads and videos.
Critics, including Jeff Bechdel from the Republican opposition research firm America Rising, say these questions are all too convenient. They are either softballs that allow the candidate a chance for a cute interaction or they are just a little bit too on-message to seem authentic, questions about “things that are maybe not discussed on the playground,” said Bechdel.
Questions about gender pay equity, gun control and mental health and bullying on the day GOP candidate Donald Trump started attacking Clinton also led quite a few people including Trump to speculate that the questions must be planted. Clinton’s campaign communications director Brian Fallon insists they are “absolutely not” planted. “Some of the most unscripted questions come from the kids,” said Fallon.
We’ll let you decide for yourselves. Here are some of them:
Sports and equal pay: “Will more jobs in sports be open to women and will they get equal pay?” (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Dog or cat? “Do you have a dog or cat?” (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Had to ask: “Can I have a picture with you?” (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Mental health and guns: “When you become president, what is your plan to connect mental health problems and guns to make sure me, my brother and my friends are safe from violence at school?” (Portsmouth, N.H)
Equal pay: “I think my mother is working much harder … than my father and she deserves to get more money than my father. I just don’t think it’s fair.” (Portsmouth, N.H)
Vision for America: “What is your vision for America in 2024?” (Mason City, Iowa)
Addiction and foster care: “I want to know how you would help the children of parents doing the overdoses?” (Windham, N.H.)
Girl Scouts: “You mentioned you were a Girl Scout. What character traits did you learn while scouting that you would use to be a successful president?” (Orangeburg, S.C.)