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Hillary In Nashua

Just got back from New Hampshire where I had a nice chat in Keene with a third-tier presidential candidate whose name I've already forgotten. I think it might have been Alan Cranston. Mo Udall? I'll check my notes: I'm working on a longer piece and will sort it out eventually. (Birch Bayh?? Reuben Askew??)

The big event of the weekend was the 100 Club Dinner, a Democratic party-faithful gig in Nashua that I believe is named after the cover charge. The keynoter this year was Hillary Clinton. She tried out some new lines about "the invisible Americans" (excerpt at the tail end of this item), and got plenty of praise in the afterglow. She continues to run a crisp campaign, and anyone who thinks she's not electable is not paying attention. And as one guy said in the crowd: she looks ready to govern. (She'd also just hired a bunch of people who had been working for the state party -- a sign that the Clinton machine is firing on all cylinders.)

But there's the nagging problem that she can be a little ... gosh, I try so hard to be polite around here ... stultifying. I'm thinking of Election night 2006, when she was pretty much a bore in the midst of a huge Democratic victory. (Remind me at some point to lavish praise on the Selma speech by Sen. Obama.)

As a speaker she errs on the side of being comprehensive. ("And then there is Albania.") You probably saw that piece by Dana Milbank the other day, describing her cautious, uncontroversial, Hallmark-Card language. Perhaps the senator needs to experiment with the time-honored rhetorical device known as the anecdote.

She could start telling stories. Her speech Saturday night had no stories. It had no narrative. It was a list of subject headings, categories, policies, themes. There are moments when she seems to speak in agate type.

Her "invisible Americans" theme is a strong one, but she could flesh it out with the names of real people. Otherwise she is listing categories of hardship.

She's been First Lady of the United States -- did anything happen during those eight years that could serve as a campaign anecdote? She was a Goldwater Girl, a hotshot law student, worked on Watergate, spent years in Arkansas as a lawyer and advocate and First Lady, and has six-plus years in the Senate behind her -- surely there are stories to tell.

Here's an excerpt from her prepared remarks (thanks, Charlie Cook):

Sen. Clinton: 'America's middle class, and working families, have become the invisible Americans.

If you are a hard working single parent who can't afford health insurance or a small business owner who worries about energy costs or a student who can't afford to continue college, you are invisible to this Administration. You are invisible to the oil companies earning record profits while you pay more at the pump. You are invisible to the companies who outsource your job, or lay you off or end the promise of your pension. For six long years, President Bush and the Washington Republicans have looked right through you.

If you are a first responder, worker or volunteer from 9/11 in need of medical treatment, you are invisible to them.

If you are a soldier returning from combat and waiting for treatment or disability pay, you are invisible.

If you are a child sitting in a failing school waiting for the promised federal funding under the No Child Left Behind Act, you are invisible.

If you are single mom who needs safe quality child care while you go to work, you are invisible.

And if you're a career government scientist raising the global warming alarm; a conservationist trying to protect the environment; a government accountant looking into no bid contracts that have cost the tax payers billions of dollars; even a Republican U.S. Attorney trying to enforce the law impartially - they've tried to make you invisible to the rest of us.

More than 46 million people living without health insurance. More than 90,000 people living in trailers after Hurricane Katrina. 13 million children living in poverty.

For six long years, they have all been invisible. '

[Click here for the story my colleague Dan Balz filed Saturday night.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 12, 2007; 7:28 AM ET
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