Clinton Camp Worried Gun Control Position Would Not Play Well in Southern States

Reworked debate talking points to avoid sounding too much like Sanders, hacked emails show

Hillary Clinton
October 17, 2016

A top Clinton campaign staffer worried her gun control stance would turn off voters in southern states, a hacked email released on Sunday shows.

While preparing for MSNBC’s First in the South Democratic Forum at Winthrop University in South Carolina on Nov. 6, 2015, emails show campaign staffers were assigned specific areas of interest to be prepared to discuss during a pre-forum conference call with Hillary Clinton on the 5th. The campaign's communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a number of staffers to be ready to discuss topics from stylistic tips to polling numbers to policy issues.

When she got to the issue of guns, Palmieri questioned whether or not gun control was a "bad issue for South."

Jim Margolis, a political consultant and senior adviser to Clinton, said that one of the gun-related answers the campaign had developed was too similar to one commonly used by her primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"Flagging: The following answer feels very close to the rural / urban response bernie has," Margolis said. "I’d drop it.

"I represented New York in the Senate, and New York City has much stricter gun laws than upstate New York, because their needs are different. That’s why I think it’s important that localities be able to make that decision for themselves."

Instead, Margolis recommended the opposite formulation.

"I think it’s fine to say when localities want to implement tougher laws based on their situation, I support that," he said.

On Tuesday, another batch of emails showed top Clinton staffers were concerned about attacking Bernie Sanders too aggressively over gun control. Emails released last Wednesday show the campaign was concerned about "fully embracing" New York's strict 2013 gun control law.

The email exchange in question was published by Wikileaks. The director of national intelligence and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security have accused "Russia’s senior-most officials" of hacking and leaking emails posted to Wikileaks and other sites to influence the 2016 election.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.