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Survivors By: Fred Barnes
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 10, 2008


THAT WAS QUICK. The Clinton era was over for a grand total of five days. It was nice while it lasted--from the Iowa caucuses to the New Hampshire primary. But now Bill and Hillary are back in full force, with Bill doing the dirty work of trashing Barack Obama and Hillary stressing how much she cares. This division of labor seems to work. It certainly did in New Hampshire.

We should have known, despite the polls to the contrary and the mammoth crowds that Obama was attracting. Hillary Clinton managed to capture a voting bloc that pollsters didn't account for in their surveys: single women and older women. For them, Obama was probably never even a consideration. Obamamania didn't touch them. He wasn't on their wavelength. Hillary was.

She's not the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But she might as well be. She has resources: a broad base of support in the party, enough money, and now a shtick that may carry her through the South Carolina and Florida primaries and Tsunami Tuesday on February 5 (with 21 primaries).

Hillary Clinton has found her voice. That's the shtick. She said, in her victory speech after defeating Obama, that she found it after spending the final three days of the New Hampshire campaign listening to people. That, she indicated, was all it took for her to become the champion of the Americans who need help--her help--from the White House.

The press doesn't like Hillary, but reporters are bound to like her story. They may even believe it. Either way, the media won't be able to resist a narrative about a presidential candidate on the verge of defeat who taps into the woes of anxious Americans, women mostly, and is rejuvenated. Clinton had been insisting that she's "ready" to be president. Now she's really ready.

What about Obama? Nearly everyone in the political community, myself included, expected him to win a decisive victory over Clinton in New Hampshire. If he had, he would have taken command of the Democratic race and made himself the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.

Obama may still win. He has resources of his own that an insurgent candidate usually doesn't. He's got money. In fact, he's out-raised Clinton, up to now anyway. He's got African-American voters who are likely to rally to his candidacy because he's the first African American with a real shot at winning the presidency. Forget Jesse Jackson. He was a nuisance candidate.

And Obama has a story that's more appealing and true than Hillary's tale of finding her voice. Obama's father was Kenyan, his mother a Kansan, and he wound up going to Harvard Law School and becoming a United States senator. No matter how many times one hears it, that's an American story that resonates.

The question is whether Obama is tough enough to repel the Clinton assault that has already started. And the Clintons have been egging on the press to stop giving Obama a free ride. The Clinton gang may say they want Obama to be scrutinized as rigorously as Hillary Clinton has been. What they really want are hit pieces.

It's been said that Clinton is campaigning from the political center and John Edwards from the left. Obama has been campaigning from above. Hillary Clinton wants to bring his high-toned campaign, inspiring in ways her campaign never has been, down to earth.

My guess is Obama will withstand the attacks. But then, I thought he'd win in New Hampshire and leave Clinton struggling to salvage her campaign and her dreams of being president.

There's a lesson in what happened in New Hampshire. It's not that New Hampshire often plays a contrarian role in presidential races, voting in unexpected ways. We knew that. The lesson is that Hillary and Bill Clinton are survivors. Just when you think they're not only down but out, they rise from the grave. We should have known.


Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.


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