People are still scratching their heads, wondering how Hillary Clinton pulled off a stunning upset in New Hampshire over Barack Obama. The media and pundits, blinded by the polls and Obama's rock star speeches and crowds, had written her off. But if her speaking and communications skills played a role--and of course they did--you have to look at what she did the last five days leading up to the vote.
One knock against Hillary has always been that she's not likable--too cold, too political, driven by polls, not the people. But in the NH TV debate, and later on the stump, she showed a different face--more humble, more giving, more human. Critics called it just another Clinton gimmick--remember "slick Willie's" reputation in the 90s? And when she almost teared up in front of a crowd later (photo above), and began talking about how hard it's been and how she truly wants a better country, some pundits said the "stunt" could backfire--a show of weakness, they said.
In fact, it may have had just the opposite effect, grabbing media attention and galvanizing the women vote. After losing the women vote in Iowa, she won it back in NH, 46 percent to 34 percent. According to the TV talking heads and exit interviews, some women said they decided to give her another look after hearing her emotional-charged statements. Some talked about how hard women have worked over the last generation to rise in corporations and political offices in this country. The Hillary episode may have reminded some of the long, hard trail, turning Hillary into a lightning rod for a larger issue--at least for the moment. And that's all she needed-a moment to show her human side.
""I think she's human. I think she's got the clout," said Joyce Connelly, 76, an independent from Laconia, N.H. in a newspaper interview.
Another woman, interviewed on NPR, said she "woke up that morning and knew I had to vote for her (she was going to vote for Obama). It almost felt like a duty. What was I thinking before?"
No one will argue that this one issue won Hillary over in NH, or that women are voting for her soley because she's a woman. But one would be equally naive to think her new and improved speaking style--see my last post--isn't giving her a big boost. She may not be an Obama, or even rival her husband Bill as a silver tongued orator, but she's finding her true voice--one more authentic, richer, more believable. Too bad she couldn't have found it earlier, but better late than never. Look for a very interesting race going forward.