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Raising Hill

Hillary Clinton’s ‘aura of inevitability’ might hide her weaknesses — at least until the Republicans get their hands on her
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  September 12, 2007

MELTING THE ICE QUEEN: Clinton’s breaking down her negative image and winning over voters on the campaign trail.

Queen Hillary: Dynasties? Americans love ’em when Heather Locklear or Michael Jordan is involved. But will they embrace the Clintons?
Hillary Clinton took only two questions from the audience at the end of her 35-minute speech at the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conference in Boston this past Friday, and one of them hit her exactly where her Democratic opponents want her hit: Clinton’s disastrous, failed attempt to reform health-care coverage in her husband’s first term. Health care is the AARP’s No. 1 political issue these days, and aside from the Iraq War, probably the biggest topic among Democrats nationwide. Clinton’s botched attempt, in the view of many, set the health-care-reform agenda back 15 years.

But Clinton’s lengthy response to the question was the highlight of her talk, judging by comments afterward from a number of people in attendance. Clinton leaned her right elbow on the podium and cocked her head toward the audience, as she often does, conveying an informality and casualness that belies her public image of a cold, calculating ice queen. When she does this, she peppers her lines with “well” and “you know,” making her remarks seem off-the-cuff, even when she has delivered them — as she has answered this specific question — repeatedly on the campaign trail.

The 1993–94 reform effort revealed her political inexperience at the time, Clinton explained to the questioner. She did not know then how to maneuver bills through the jungle of Washington — terrain she has now spent 15 years mastering. Instead of anger at what she once called the “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” she displayed bemusement at her own naïveté; at her failure to realize that her plan to simplify the system, reduce costs, and increase individual freedom would be vilified as hopelessly complex, massively expensive, and Orwellian-ly restrictive.

Now that she knows how to negotiate the Washington process, Clinton continued, she was ready to take on forces like the drug companies and the insurance industry, who are prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to protect the status quo against any change — and suddenly she had squared her shoulders and was speaking with crisp precision, turning her head left and right in the posture we have learned, in this teleprompter age, to identify with speechifying of great political import. The audience of roughly 3000 (another 3000 watched in spillover areas) went wild.

“She seems approachable,” Christine Young, a nurse from Salt Lake City, said after the AARP speech. “She seems like a warmer person than I expected.” Attendees from Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Kansas gave similar reviews.

This kind of lemonade-from-lemons trick is just killing her competitors for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, none of whom accepted invitations to speak at the AARP event. A Barack Obama staffer told the Phoenix this week of the campaign’s frustration that Clinton has been able to bill herself as the best candidate to drive the health-care-reform agenda, because of her experience screwing it up last time. (A more blunt Obama advisor bitched to the New Yorker on this point that “I’m sure George Bush learned how not to invade Iraq. Should we then trust him to invade Iran?”)

Clinton has not only turned a negative into a positive, she has turned it into a negative for her experience-poor opponents — particularly Obama, who by implication is the green, unschooled Hillary of 15 years ago.

When Obama entered the presidential race in January, the conventional wisdom held that he had burst Clinton’s “aura of inevitability” in the Democratic primaries. But eight months later, with just four months before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, it appears that Hillary’s got her aura back. Clinton’s national lead is as high as ever, in new USA Today/Gallup, Rasmussen, and CBS News/New York Times polls. Her lead in New Hampshire remains dominant, and she has gained on, or even passed, Edwards in Iowa.

The polls are so good for her, in fact, that the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to supporters this past week reminding them that “early polls don’t mean a thing.”

This week’s Newsweek cover story dubs Clinton “the safest money in the 2008 race.” Several Republican candidates, including Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, are explicitly arguing that the GOP needs them as the best candidate to take on Clinton, as if she’s already won the nomination.

“Is there an aura of inevitability?” asks Lou D’Allesandro, a New Hampshire state senator who has yet to decide who he will endorse. “She’s probably as close to it as you get.”

One shot to beat her?
If Clinton makes it to the New Hampshire primary with this aura of inevitability intact, she will be virtually unstoppable, several pundits tell the Phoenix. Her poll numbers and field organization in the Granite State are formidable, and after New Hampshire the race slingshots rapidly into a February 5th 30-state primary, where Clinton leads handily in almost every state, and has the money to defend that lead wherever she needs.

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Raising Hill
John Edwards, out of office since Jan. '05, has nothing left to lose in 2008. He may do whatever it takes to get the nomination that's likely available to him for the last time. He's wearing the union label to re-invent himself as the candidate who spoke eloquently and accurately about "the two Americas" - those that got and those that don't - in '04. Rhetoric that fell strangely silent after he became Kerry's running mate. While there's some apparent disconnect between organized labor and the workers whom they could potentially organize - whether salaried, hourly, daily-pay or piece-meal - Edwards could build bridges 'tween the two. Also, not many candidates are actively solicitng votes from low-and-moderate income earners. A strong primary showing by Edwards could result in - if not a place on the ticket - his perhaps being named Secretary of Labor in an incoming Democratic administration. A fitting sequel to his now being Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina.
By L-J on 09/13/2007 at 2:54:39
Raising Hill
Many red-blooded Americans let steam build up till it shoots out of their ears and they stomp their hooves in rage when their nostrils sniff out "inevitability" in a political candidate. From an upper-middle-class, chilly and mirthless middle-aged white woman who's also a Wellesley grad, no less. Hillary does herself no favors amongst the general electorate when she grandly uses "inevitability" as an omen to warn off pretenders and contenders while also seeking to sway susceptible voters. Most lesser worthies - "moi?" well, I nevah! - delight in upsetting the rich folks' apple cart, cheer for an upset and like to see sure-fire predictions proven wrong. She's setting herself up for a fall. And more than a few people - mostly white guys, one might add - are licking their chops as they rub their hands in gleeful anticipation of her "inevitability" ending up in the loss column.
By L-J on 09/14/2007 at 7:54:49
Raising Hill
look dipshit - it aint Hillary saying she's "inevitable"...its the frigging polls of democratic voters. what a moronic column and an even dumber comment by L-J where did ya find these clowns? at Kos at 4 am scribbling to the dozens...theyre heart felt smarty-ness?! ha!
By dem dem on 09/14/2007 at 2:05:09

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