NEWS

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January 6, 2008

2 days in NH, part 2: The attack of the scarves

In 45 minutes, the 42nd president of the United States will take the stage here in Nashua to tell us why his wife, more than any other living American including himself, should be the next President of the United States. There’s a big campaign bus and colorful placards (free!) and a giant American flag and two full podiums in the back for the press—one for television cameras and one for all the rest. But I can’t stop looking at the scarves.I don’t go for scarves, myself. I find them constrictive, and sometimes they rise up and get in the way of my mouth. But I respect their utility. Nonetheless, I don’t understand why an estimated two out of every five supporters at Hillary’s Hangar have them wrapped around their necks. The place is crawling with them. Green “AFSCME for Hillary” scarves. Candy-striped scarves. Blue scarves, red scarves, everywhere a scarf scarf. It seems like an odd way to support a candidate.As if it wasn’t abundantly clear from the suit-wearing campaign aides, the setting—an empty airplane hangar—and the overly perky buttons that say “Hillary!” (as if she’s a shoe company and not the junior senator from New York), the scarves make it clear this is a different kind of campaign than Edwards’s. It’s just a different slice of the electorate—latte liberals, to be sure.At around 9:00, Bill, Chelsea, and Hillary all walk on stage to blaring music and the din of supporters. Bill is clearly energized—campaigning is so much easier when you don’t have to campaign—and when he grabs the mic, he tells us that he has never been prouder of Hillary than he was after last night’s caucuses. It’s understandable that as her husband he might feel that way, but to paraphrase the candidate, it requires a willing suspension of disbelief to think that Thursday was a good night for Senator Clinton.Bill speaks very briefly and the audience eats it up. He could start picking attendees out one by one and laughing at their insecurities and the rest of the supporters would probably just smile knowingly and murmur to their neighbors “he’s got a point, you know.” Such is his charm.Hillary’ rally has the feeling of a general election-style event, if such an affair is even possible in New Hampshire. Rather than dwell on Iowa, she makes it clear that this is a national campaign and that she is looking at the big picture. Specifically, that she is already battle-tested against the harshest Republican attacks, making light of the high level of scrutiny devoted to the Clintons during their White House years. More impressively, though, are the substantive elements of her speech. She carefully outlines her major policy proposals in health care and Iraq. She’s not a populist and doesn’t try to be; her strength comes in her practicality and ability take the audience through an issue step-by-step, mixing personal and political examples to support her arguments and relate it to whomever it is she’s talking to. In the right format she can be commanding; the whole event is like a “frequently asked questions” page on a website.One more interesting distinction between Hillary and Edwards comes from her supporters. Whereas Paulie and company seemed to be having a blast warming up Manchester for John and Elizabeth (“We like Elizabeth, we like John. We want to see them on the White House lawn!”), the Clintonites struggle to come up with anything more creative than “Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!” The name Hillary should by no means be a hindrance to catchy jingles. Hillary rhymes with distillery, for example. What’s she brewing? Freedom! Or you could use “Hill” which opens up lots of things—Bill, chill, kill, ill, windowsill. I don’t ask for much.