Clinton’s strut out of style?

It’s less than a week into 2008 and already the so-called “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton’s nomination sounds so 2007. The good people of the Iowa caucuses popped that bubble.

hillz.jpgIt’s less than a week into 2008 and already the so-called “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton’s nomination sounds so-o 2007. The Iowa caucuses popped that leftover bubble.

Once the Iowa votes were counted the national press promptly reduced the numbers down to a one-word common denominator for what voters in both political parties were calling for — “change.”

Perhaps that’s a bit oversimplified but a one-word theme, which plays well as a headline, is as good as it gets for copywriters in the news biz.

Cast as insurgents, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee emerged from Iowa labeled as “agents for change,” as winners. For the also-rans in both parties that change theme might have a different meaning, as a verb rather than a noun — either change your campaign’s style, or step aside, because this year there’s a new way of walking.

For Democrat Hillary Clinton that won’t be so easy. She’s been selling her “experience” as a U.S. Senator, piggybacked onto her First Lady years, as her strong suit. Now she’s hearing from the chattering pundits that a lot of voters, especially young voters, see her as representing a fading bygone era more than a brighter future.

If that 35 years of experience Clinton has been touting is actually looking more like “baggage” to restless Democrats, tired of faces all-too-familiar, she may have painted herself into a corner.

Can’t you hear that familiar tune in the background? Yes, it’s that old jazz standard, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (by Overstreet and Higgins).

I’m goin’ to change my way of livin’
If that ain’t enough
Then I’ll change the way that I strut my stuff

At Saturday night’s debate, in a revealing moment, Clinton cut her eyes toward Obama to say, “I’m not running on just a promise of change, I’m running on 35 years of making…”

How did “change” become the first big buzzword of Campaign ‘08?

Well, one has to go back to 1952 to find the last presidential election year in which there wasn’t an incumbent president or vice president in the hunt. Then there’s the fact the shadow being cast across the political landscape by the baby boomer generation is at long-last shortening.

Voters under 35 apparently aren’t so interested in re-fighting the battles of the ’60s forever.

Perhaps more important than either of those reasons is the fatigue factor that’s clearly in the air. Coast-to-coast, millions of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and you-name-it are obviously more than a little tired of a bitterly partisan, consultant-driven style of politics that can’t deliver solutions. Likewise, voters are fed up with a lobbyist-driven government that routinely shovels their tax money into bottomless pits of folly and graft.

In 2008 the horses of fear-mongering and empty cynicism may well have been beaten to death.

However, as Obama is subjected to more scrutiny and attack ads, which he surely will be, it will become increasingly difficult for him to stay on message. Modern thinking has it that such attacks must be answered/refuted. If he follows that conventional wisdom, he could easily end up sounding more ordinary, which could reveal weaknesses not yet apparent.

Which means that while Obama’s momentum seems authentic — his victory speech in Iowa has drawn universal raves — there’s no reason to say this early in the going that if he wins in New Hampshire, it’s all over for Clinton. Not at all. Her considerable skills and resources won’t have evaporated into the mists of history, merely on account of losing a handful of delegates in two small states.

In short, Hillary Clinton has to figure out a new way to strut her stuff without looking like just another copycat politician, dancing yesterday’s steps. Maybe she can still do that … then again, maybe she can’t.

Most likely, all that’s really been settled at this point is that we know “inevitability” is last year’s buzzword.

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F.T. Rea has been sharing his art, photographs, essays, and commentary with Richmond since 1972. You can see more from him at SLANTblog or Fan District Hub.

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