Wednesday, January 24, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby?


The talk-show host approach to "introducing" Sen. Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate doesn't seem entirely odd, given the tough political calculations the presumptive Democratic nominee must make. But it does reveal some clues about what trail she must forge to win.
This early in a campaign a candidate is usually hoping to win undecideds while holding the base. But with 97% name recognition Mrs. Clinton has the difficult task of winning over voters who already don't like her.
It wasn't just a Webcast -- nobody is talking anymore about how cool Sen. Barack Obama was to two-camera his exploratoriousness online. And in the spirit of keeping every aspect of a candidate's appearance under control, what is better than a closed set with no live audience? Put her at a desk in an office that isn't Oval and it fails. Put her in her living room and it just ... may ... work.

But still, there had to have been some talk within the campaign about the symbolism of a woman softening her image. Has any woman candidate for national office ever tried less to seem like one of the boys? Can this be the same person who, while campaigning for her husband back in 1992, infamously blurted out: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life. "

As far as blatant iconography goes, sitting on the the end of a sofa, elbow propped up on a pillow, is probably better for candidate Clinton at this stage in the game than bellowing from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This may even be true in a campaign where commander-in-chief potential, at least as it relates to Iraq, will be Topics A, B and C.

But I can't see any of the guys going this route. Even in leather chairs in the study. With a fire in the background. Pictures of the family on a hard-wood, piano-finish side table adorned only with a brass colonial lamp -- coasters and ash trays banished to a sealed room at another location.

The answer may lie in the fact that Sen. Clinton has virtually 100% name recognition and that only 3% of the public has no opinion of her. This early in a campaign a candidate is usually hoping to win undecideds while holding the base. But Mrs. Clinton has the difficult task of winning over voters who already don't like her because so few have yet to make up their minds one way or the other.

Maybe the best way to do that is to invite them into her home for an friendly chat in the living room.

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