Sen. Hilary Clinton didn’t seem to change many minds last night, but apparently she didn’t need to.
I went to Benaroya Hall hoping Clinton would change my mind — or at the very least help set it — turning me into a true blue supporter instead of just somebody who kinda likes her. But mostly I went to see if she could change the minds of the legion of doubters who supposedly fear a Clinton nomination would be the surest path to Republican victory in 2008.
But as I mingled through the crowd I discovered I had walked into the hall under false assumptions, for while I talked to a number of enthusiastic Obama and Edwards supporters, Hillary-haters were ne’er to be seen. Sure, Clinton was not the first choice of many in attendance last night — perhaps even a majority — but my unscientific survey didn’t find anybody who wouldn’t happily accept her as the Democratic nominee, or who even remotely bought in to the familiar “Hillary can’t win” meme. This particular crowd didn’t need convincing; they needed reinforcing. And on that count, Clinton delivered.
Her speech wasn’t a barn-burner or a stem-winder by any account, but it was confident, well measured, personal, and hit most of the right notes. For years, Americans have been told that Clinton is a divisive figure who draws great animosity, but you wouldn’t know it from the Clinton who spoke last night. Most Americans want health care reform; they want to restore America’s reputation abroad and rebuild its middle class at home. Most Americans want to end the war in Iraq, and like Clinton, a majority of those who now oppose the war have seen their own position evolve in response to events on the ground. And while I personally wish Clinton would adopt more liberal rhetoric, and advance more progressive solutions to many of the problems that now plague our nation (ie health care), I think few Americans, listening to her speak last night, would disagree with much of what the senator had to say.
But most importantly, Clinton came across as, well… likable, personable, caring, even funny. Not exactly the hard-edged, calculating bitch Republicans are counting on.
Was I convinced? No. I’m still leaning toward Edwards, if ever so slightly. But I was certainly reassured that should conventional wisdom hold true and Clinton wins the nomination, she will not only easily dispatch her Republican opponent, but will serve our nation well. And once more Americans get to know Hillary Clinton better, I am convinced that they will be reassured too.
Writing on Slog, Josh draws a more tactical observation from last night’s speech, noting that the best indication Clinton’s political prowess was that she was there at all…
Why is that? Why is it that even though Barack Obama and John Edwards are more popular and raising more money in Washington State than Clinton, Clinton scores the Maggie Awards dinner—a captive audience of the most influential Democrats from the fundraising, organizing, and messaging fronts in the state. Well played HRC. You are a tactical player.
Yeah… um… true. But it should be noted that the keynote address in 2003 was a red-meat-flinging scorcher delivered by presumptive Democratic front-runner Howard Dean. How’d that work out for him?