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Not a Game


Hillary Clinton hugs a supporter at an early election morning rally in N.H. (Getty Images).

By Joel Achenbach
MERRIMACK, N.H. -- The Clinton Era began here in New Hampshire in 1992. You have to wonder if it begins to end here tonight.

Last night Hillary Rodham Clinton held a last-hurrah rally in a tennis-court pavilion next to the airport in Manchester. She had the usual human wallpaper behind her, plus her daughter and husband standing dutifully at attention. She made a good speech and almost every one of her policy initiatives, even the wonkiest ones ("I will end that long, confusing financial aid form that you have to fill out!"), drew a roar from the crowd.

But there were dozens of people streaming out of the place even as she was speaking. I asked a couple of them why they were leaving. One said she was tired. Another said he had to get up early to go to the polls. Reporters shouldn't try to weave a few stray threads into an entire quilt. It was late, there was no place to sit. But it has to be said: You never see people leaving in the middle of an Obama speech.

Several voters told me they thought Clinton's emotional moment in Portsmouth revealed her humanity and made her more appealing.

"I thought it was very human," said Pernelia Lindorff, 57, a teacher in Manchester. "It was from the heart. Men don't do that."

Mariel Rosen, 20, a college student, said, "It actually pains me to see the attacks against her. She has a celebrity status but she really is a human like you or me or anyone."

Diedre Smyrnos, 43, who sells produce in Rye, said she worries the news media will overplay the Portsmouth moment: "I hope they don't change history because of one watery eye."

Sid Blumenthal, Clinton's senior adviser, wandered back to the press area and offered his own description of the Portsmouth event: "Ed Muskie in reverse."

(Muskie, the Democratic front-runner in 1972, had choked up in Manchester as he denounced the editor of the Union Leader. To this day it's unclear if the "tears" were actually melting snow. In any case, the incident helped sink Muskie's candidacy.)

I asked Blumenthal if the Obama surge will prove to be a passing infatuation, a kind of political bubble that will eventually pop.

Blumenthal hesitated as he formulated an answer. Finally he said, "There's a book on tulip manias... "

As in, mass hysteria and the madness of crowds.

"We'll find out if this is tulip mania, if it's a bubble," Blumenthal said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 8, 2008; 8:59 AM ET
Categories:  Joel's New Hampshire Diary  
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Next: For N.Y. Candidates, Quandaries Ahead

Comments

I think that since Hillary Clinton got teary shows that she actually cares and that she is also human. No guy would ever express their feelings like that, and I respect her for it. She has my families vote, adn I hope people will have enough sense to not vote for Obama.

Posted by: alicia.aceves | January 8, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

CORRECTION in context "Portersah": Mr. Achenbach's comment that he'd never seen people depart in midst of an Obama speech wasn't made specifically in reference to last night's NH primary eve appearances by Obama and Clinton. Achenbach wrote: "But it has to be said: You never see people leaving in the middle of an Obama speech." Auchenbach was saying that while covering the current campaign trail, he'd never seen people leave in significant numbers while Obama was still speaking...a reflection of Obama's undeniable charisma, caring and practical approaches to the many difficult problems our country faces. Puh-leeze...no need to exaggerate or distort to make your counterpoint, "portersah".

Posted by: ablack | January 8, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama's rally started (or was supposed to) at 6:00. Hillary's, not until 9:30. I was staying up past normal bedtime to watch because I have to get up at 5:00 to get to work at 8:00, and if I'd been there I would have left at 10:00. Presumably Mr. Achenbach doesn't have to work the kind of hours that Hillary's constituentcy does.

Posted by: portersah | January 8, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Obama's rally started (or was supposed to) at 6:00. Hillary's, not until 9:30. I was staying up past normal bedtime to watch because I get up at 5:00 to get to work at 8:00, and if I'd been there I would have left at 10:00. Presumably Mr. Achenbach doesn't have to work the kind of hours that Hillary's constituentcy does.

Posted by: portersah | January 8, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Putting aside the way she ascribed her feelings as being due to the fact that she just thinks of others, I felt a little bit bad for her as she showed a flash of humanity. But I also know she's got the knives out for Barack, and a moment of mistiness doesn't obliterate a career of ruthlessness.

Posted by: Seytom1 | January 8, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

GO TULIPS!!!

Posted by: JakeD | January 8, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

This is completely off-topic, but as a gardener, I am tickled to see a reference to tulip mania during the elections! :)

Posted by: drama_king | January 8, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Just because Joel has never seen people leave while Obama is talking doesn't mean it's never happened.

Posted by: JakeD | January 8, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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