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Friday, February 01, 2008

Clinton "Lifetime" / Susan Faludi Piece

Here's Clinton's new ad "Lifetime" which is running in nine states, including NY:

"You know, you can't always pass the laws you want to pass right away. You can't snap your fingers and get people to cooperate. You have to work on that every minute of every day. But you can try to help somebody every single day."

I cannot fathom that quote. It runs against everything I thought was inherent to Clinton's previous message, "I'll get things done." I've never heard a candidate talk so much about what you "can't" do. Not passing laws? This puzzles me to no end. But it does makes me think of this passage from this Susan Faludi essay which is seeming to me more and more like the core essay of this political campaign on the Clinton side:

On the afternoon of the New Hampshire primary, I had a political epiphany of sorts while standing in line at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco waiting for a prescription to be filled. In front of me, a middle-aged woman in a sensible pantsuit was soothing her rattled, elderly mother. "It's OK, Mom, they made us go to the end of the line because I didn't wait until your name was on the board, but you don't need to stand. Sit down and relax, and I'll handle it."

In the row of chairs to my left, another woman in business wear -- she'd clearly just run in from the office -- was applying similar verbal balm to her fretting parent. "That's not a problem. I'll call the doctor and make sure he understands that, and then I'll move that other appointment to tomorrow morning. Don't worry." A pitched cellphone battle with the doctor's recalcitrant gatekeeper followed. Evidently, the daughter won. "It's fixed," she told her mother. "I've taken care of everything."

Listening to these women manage their mothers with effectiveness and as much patience as they could muster, admitting to errors, standing in interminable lines, speed-dialing medical professionals, I wanted to ask, "Could you run my country?"

Help, in that sense, the help that Clinton provides, is managerial competence that appeals to women AND to seniors. Faludi was clearly onto something. And that ad is clearly designed to appeal to those core groups. That is Clinton's enormous strength in this primary since seniors and women are the two demographic groups that participate strongest in the Democratic primary season.

However, that being said, I don't see how this ad helps Clinton break out of that demographic box, how it expands her appeal in any way. "Ready to Lead" has become "Trying to Help." In that sense, "Lifetime" defines in some ways the strengths and limits of the Clinton appeal.

Will that appeal be enough for Clinton to withstand Obama's ground game and expansion of the Democratic primary playing field across demographic and regional lines on Tusnami Tuesday? We'll see.


  • I think the Clinton campaign may have made the calculation that Obama can get to 45-48% in a two-person race but that it would be impossible for him to break through if Clinton prevented any erosion from her supporters. The hour long Hallmark Channel town hall (a network with an overwhelmingly female audience), the themes in this message -- they aren't about new voters, they are about Hillary Clinton's base of support.

    If Obama turns out a flood of new voters in his best demographics on Super Tuesday he'll win but it's a smart calculation by the HRC campaign to bet against something that has never occured in recent history.

    OT: Thanks so much for your series on dKos. In addition to the informative, engaging writing the tone of the pieces changed the dynamic of the candidate diaries and transformed a lot of energy from negative to positive. Nice work!

    By Anonymous joejoejoe, at 5:57 AM  

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