Hillary on Camera: Can She Drone Her Way to '08?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 26, 2006 2:24 PM

Gallup released a poll today, which shows that 51 percent of those asked would "definitely" not vote for Hillary Clinton for president in '08. That's more than two full years from now, and more than half of the electorate is set against her.

The results of the poll look only slightly better for Condi Rice-- 48 percent of the electorate would "definitely" not vote for her. Although, considering that Hill has been openly campaigning for the slot since about the time Eddie Vedder was still considered hot (not that I don't still love ya, Eddie, because I totally do), you gotta believe this makes her feel worse than Condi.

Condi's kicked back, saying she won't run, shunning the whole rabid-political-ambition look that is so very hot in Washington, and she's still beating Hillary of the Millenium Bridging Campaign For World Domination.

There's a reason for this, and I think it will only get worse for Hillary, regardless of who runs against her. My thoughts on this don't have a lot to do with her politics, although I do think she's too lefty to appeal to many folks, and that she'll be unable to cover that sufficiently.

It has to do with her voice and her public speaking style. She's a definite droner. Her voice is more forceful than folksy, almost as if she's protesting a little too much, trying a little too hard to prove that she's a woman with the wherewithal to command (an understandable response, but not a pleasant one to listen to). She's almost always just a tad too loud.

Watch the video on Political Teen of Hillary doing her "plantation" speech. She's at a black church in Harlem. It's pretty safe to say this is friendly territory. Clearly, she was relaxed in that environment or she would have thought twice about that "plantation" comment.

My point being that these are the best possible conditions under which Hillary could speak, and she's still grating. She drones and hand-chops (she's very big on the dramatic, vertical hand-chop gesture) over many of what were meant to be applause lines. She doesn't get much applause, period, despite the pretty inflammatory content of the speech. She is clearly less than electrifying in a black church in Harlem.

I can't imagine that means she'll play any better anywhere else, for less friendly audiences.

Bill Clinton is widely acclaimed as a great public speaker. President Bush is widely ridiculed as pretty terrible. But the one thing the two have in common is they don't come off like robots. Bill Clinton brings emotion and levity to his speeches through polished performances (whether it's genuine or not is a whole 'nother issue). Bush's leaning on the podium, joke-cracking, and stumbling over words make him look like a real person.

Hillary Clinton, however, gives off a definite Al Gore vibe, only perhaps more wooden. You can tell it wears on her audience in the clip. She enters to raucous applause, but it gets fainter and fainter as she keeps talking.

Do I smell a metaphor? I think I do. Hillary will enter the '08 race to raucous applause and great enthusiasm (heck, we've already been debating the precise nature of the Hillary-enthusiasm since before 2004). After that point, the exposure would only go up, and her numbers would not go up with it. Up against a Republican who's relatively personable on camera (John McCain, for instance, though I'm not particularly a fan), she'd lose ground fast.

I can't imagine her demeanor annoys just me. It certainly can't help move people to her side who have already "definitely" decided against her.

Her handlers would face the same problem Kerry's did in '04. The more people saw of the candidate, the less they liked him. This is not a good problem to have in a 24-hour news cycle.

I know this is a shallow political consideration, but...I repeat myself. It would make a difference. Other Dem candidates and possible Republican candidates (including Condi) have the virtues of being saddled with neither the Bill Clinton baggage nor the Hillary Clinton comportment.

H/t Charmaine.

John at PowerLine disses the Hillary juggernaut and considers a McCain candidacy.

Lorie, however, isn't at all keen on a McCain candidacy.