The Risk And Reward Of Clinton's Showing Emotion
by Todd Beeton, Mon Jan 07, 2008 at 04:07:07 PM EST
By now, no doubt you've all seen the video of Hillary Clinton getting a bit emotional at an event in New Hampshire earlier today. Not being near a TV, I've been interested to hear from two different women, each without my even asking, that it's the story of the day on cable news. One, a 30-something Democrat, was somewhat offended by Hillary's emotional display, annoyed that she would play into pre-conceptions of women ("What, she doesn't think she can win without being emotional?") My Mom, a moderate Republican, saw it somewhat differently, more as a welcome expression of humanity from someone whose cold and calculating persona has been etched in her mind for 16 years (she felt the same about her "that hurts my feelings" moment at the debate.) It was the first time I've ever heard my Mom say anything nice about Hillary Clinton.
These two reactions clearly represent the risk and reward of Clinton's decision to go mushy and the campaign clearly has calculated that it's a net plus for her. Now, by saying this, I'm not questioning the sincerity of the emotion she expressed, I'm simply assuming allowing herself to show it was a political calculation and a fairly brilliant one at that. Notice Clinton's very carefully chosen words, spoken softly, voice still somewhat cracked, as she elaborated on why the campaign means so much to her:
"We do it each one of us because we care about our country, but some of us are right and some of us are wrong, some of us are ready and some of us are not, some of us know what we'll do on day one and some of us don't."
In other words, as the story about Clinton's expressing emotion is played over and over on TV both local and national, what is communicated in the process is the crux of her entire post-Iowa message: I'm ready, Obama isn't.
Will it pay off for Clinton? Ben Smith suggests it may have won her one new voter.
The questioner, Pernold, said she'd come to the event "smitten" by Obama but that she's now torn. "Showing that emotion, I really find it refreshing," she said.
And it may have even prompted a gaffe from Edwards.
"I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business," Edwards told reporters Laconia, New Hampshire.
I don't know how much play that's getting, so I'm not sure that it would hurt him in NH, but at the very least it demonstrated a remarkable level of tone deafness.
So is a softer Hillary the way for her to win? I'm not convinced. I thought her final ad in Iowa, the one when where she's speaking directly into the camera with an angelic glow and perma-smile, was a dud. It seemed to be Hillary putting on a show, being what her advisors think she needs to be to win as opposed to the tough, smart, funny and real person from the debates over the summer that sent her poll numbers soaring and even ate into her negatives. Now, the event today didn't smack of the fakery evident in that ad and to the extent that it represents a new "let Hillary be Hillary" approach to her campaign, I think it can only help. But I think her campaign is off-track if it thinks a sort of general "softer side of Hillary" strategy is the key to a Clinton comeback.