Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (Charlie Riedel/AP)

By Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz
August 15, 2015 at 9:03 PM

It was supposed to be different this time. After the wounds of 2008, many of them self-inflicted, Hillary Rodham Clinton rebooted for 2016 with a new message, new advisers and new energy.

But two dynamics have crystallized this month, suggesting the New Hillary is hobbled by old weaknesses. Once again, worried supporters see signs of a bunker mentality in response to bad news about her e-mail server and other controversies, and they see a candidate who can seem strangely blinkered to the threat posed by a lesser-known challenger.

“A lot of the people who were hired by the campaign were new to the Clintons,” said a prominent Democrat who counts both Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton as friends. “I kind of assumed it would be different. But it hasn’t changed.”

That Democrat and other supporters requested anonymity in order to discuss the shortcomings of a candidate whom they still overwhelmingly support and think can win the White House. Several supporters said that while no one is pulling the fire alarm, they see worrisome patterns emerging.

Among them: insularity, rigidity and a sense that the operation is tone-deaf to changes happening around it.

The concerns come as Hillary Clinton is weakened by forces both within and outside her control, allies outside the campaign said. And if her campaign is doing some things well — raising money and organizing in early states — Clinton has not been able to shake off basic questions about her skills as a candidate.

Her campaign has been slow off the mark in responding to the surprising surge in national support for Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, several Democrats said. That’s one reason Vice President Biden and his allies are pondering a challenge to Clinton.

Meanwhile, the confusing saga of Clinton’s private e-mail system took what many Democrats saw as a chilling turn last week, with more news about the FBI’s investigation into the potential mishandling of classified material on Clinton’s home computer server. Clinton is not the target of the investigation but, in the words of one Democrat, no one wants their candidate’s name in the same sentence as “FBI.”

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