Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sincere or contrived, Emotional Hillary is here to stay

(Originally published 1/12/08)

Sometimes in political campaigns, one moment changes everything.

By dawn Tuesday, political pundits and reporters had all but written their stories about Hillary Clinton’s sound defeat in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. After all, Barack Obama rode a tidal wave of momentum out of his win in Iowa last week, and ALL the polls indicated that a double-digit win for him was imminent.

But then came Monday – and The Cry.

If you missed it (and how was ice fishing in Antarctica, by the way?), it wasn’t really a cry. It was a welling-up, an emotional moment of sorts, that Clinton had at a campaign rally in Portsmouth when responding to a question about how she handles the pressures of campaigning.

The Cry led Monday’s evening news across New Hampshire. About 12 hours later, polls opened across the state; 12 hours after that, Clinton had turned sure defeat into sweet victory.

Exit polls (if you still trust polls, after this week) showed that independents weakened Obama by going with John McCain in larger numbers than expected. But after losing among women in Iowa, Clinton carried them in big numbers in New Hampshire.

What brought them back? The Cry.

In that instant, “Clinton suddenly stopped being a calculating, power-hungry cyclops and took on actual humanity,” journalist Sharon Kehnemui Liss wrote.

“Hillary Clinton shows some emotion and (people) say, ‘Wait a minute, the ice queen is melting and there is a real person inside,’” National Public Radio correspondent Juan Williams said.

But Clinton has a reputation for being, well, calculating, so people began to wonder whether The Cry was real.

GOP kingmaker Karl Rove, the Duke of Deception to Clinton’s Wonder Woman, came to her defense – sort of.

“It says something about the peoples’ concern about Hillary Clinton that we are having a debate as to whether or not that was a real moment. But I think … that was a real moment,” he said.

Real or contrived, she’ll take the results, so expect to see more of Emotional Hillary as Super Tuesday draws near.
* * *

Here’s a puzzler: Why aren’t the Republican candidates talking about health care? There wasn’t a single question about it during the Fox News debate Thursday night. There were plenty of questions about the economy, immigration and the war in Iraq, reported to be the top three issues in South Carolina. But that leads me to the next head-scratcher: Why isn’t health care a top issue among the GOP? Health care providers who face hopelessly inadequate federal reimbursement rates that continue to decline – and the 50 million uninsured Americans they serve – would like to know.

And did anyone else notice that Rudy Giuliani didn’t answer the question about how he, as president, would respond to mayors of large cities implementing the same policy toward illegal immigrant crime victims and tipsters that he used as mayor of New York? It was the best question of Thursday’s debate, and he got away without answering it because it came last.

Finally, this week’s Most Annoying Pundit award goes to CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who struggled to complete a sentence without the phrase “political savant” during his network’s primary coverage Tuesday.

Dobbs is just another TV personality who wants to remind you that he breathes rarefied air and is therefore much, much smarter than the rest of us.

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