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
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
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
The question is whether Obama is tough enough to repel the Clinton assault that has already started. And
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.