Barack Obama's early success is based entirely on his image. Obama radiates authenticity -- he speaks about change and hope with the zeal of the newly converted. He's tall, young and black -- a fresh face -- and that image merges well with his high-flown rhetoric about the dawn of a new day. Obama's policy proposals are often vague, but that matters less than the fact that he projects an image voters like.
Until New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton's image was a disaster. As I write in "Project President," Hillary has severe image drawbacks. She seems shrill, harsh and unfriendly, particularly when she gets riled. She wears those ubiquitous pantsuits with an off-putting masculinity. She is so intent on proving she can play with the boys that she loses her strongest advantage over the boys: her status as a woman.
Historically Hillary experiences her highest popularity when she is least masculine. She translated her victimhood status during the Lewinsky affair into sky-high approval ratings. During the 2000 New York Senate race, she successfully played victim when opponent Rick Lazio approached her podium during a debate.
In New Hampshire, Hillary has rediscovered her winning image: the tough but oft-victimized, still-understanding female candidate. And so she sent her husband out to attack Obama rather than attacking him herself. She teared up while talking about the future of the nation. And she came from behind to eke out a victory in a state she should have won all along.
All indicators show that Hillary realizes she's stumbled onto her winning formula. "Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice," she said in her New Hampshire victory speech. Hillary always had her own voice -- now she's learning how to polish it so that it reflects the desires of her constituency.
The image battle is far from over. But now that Hillary has realized the value of authentic image-making, it's a true race for the nomination.
I Was A Woman In The Marine Corps In the Mid-70s. Hillary Clinton’s Story Doesn’t Add Up | Susan Hutchison