Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Hillary finds her voice

Following her win in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, Senator Hillary Clinton told her supporters that “I have found my own voice”.

What Senator Clinton may really have found is the outline of a new political narrative. Rather than being the best qualified candidate, she is the agent of the people against the powerful – “the rot at the top”.

"One of the things Clinton learned from her defeat in Iowa, those around her say, is that her emphasis on experience and readiness was missing its mark. Her speech Tuesday night was less about her and more about the voters: the ones who have lost their mortgages, who can’t afford health care and can't get student loans. "Too many have been invisible for too long," she said. "Well, you are not invisible to me." Where she had begun the race declaring she was "in it to win," you could almost hear the gears grinding towards a new message as Clinton shifted her focus outward on Tuesday night: "We are in it for the American people.""

Exit polls show that women voters were instrumental in Senator Clinton’s victory. On Monday night, she was visibly emotional when speaking about her commitment to politics and this may have helped her seem more authentic, especially to women.

Senator Clinton also seems to be on to a counter-story against Senator Barack Obama. In Saturday's debate, she declared that "words are not actions" and sought to reframe the contest, away from Obama's compelling rhetoric and back to the question of how to deliver real change -- and who is better equipped to do it.

In short, Senator Clinton has started to inject herself into the change narrative, the most powerful in American politics this year.But the whole story still needs some work before it is simple and emotive enough for Democratic primary voters to fully embrace. That’s one reason the next few weeks will see a lot of hard slog by both Clinton and Obama.

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