Spinning is sometimes surreal. As Hillary Clinton eeked out a narrow victory over Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary last night, her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, told a TV reporter that her watery-eyed profession of love-of-country explained her revived campaign.
A moment of supposed emotional authenticity had officially become a talking point. It became part of Clinton’s arsenal in the fight for voters waged in a media battleground.
Clinton’s uncharacteristically emotional display came in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Monday when explaining how she copes with the strain of the campaign. “Some people think elections are a game and they think it’s like who’s up or who’s down,” her voice reportedly cracking as her eyes welled up. “It’s about our country. It’s about our kids; futures. And it’s really about all of us together.”
Clinton herself deployed that weapon in a carefully worded sentence in her victory speech. “Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.”
Portrayed in the media as an Ice Queen, Clinton’s displays of emotion have been under the microscope for years. There was a particularly ridiculous week this summer when her frequent laughter was taken as a displayed of a contrived effort to be more likeable. (As best as I can tell, the mainstream media picked up on her laughter after Jon Stewart satirized it on the Daily Show. Frank Rich capped an inane week of commentary on the subject in the following Sunday’s column.)
Her emotional Portsmouth appearance may very well have been effective in puncturing her cool image and rallying last-minute support. But I find pundits’ readiness to buy this narrative just a silly as their mocking of her laughter. And the campaign’s quick transformation of a supposedly genuine moment into a talking point makes it hard to buy Clinton’s claim that she “found her voice” in New Hampshire. She may have remade her image in New Hampshire, but hasn’t she been at this far too long for her to have a sudden personal transformation at the eleventh hour?