Bob Franken


What’s interesting about Hillary Clinton’s “moment” Monday was the immediate debate it set off over whether the candidate’s near-tears were real or just another calculated act. Stanislavski devotees might have been wondering whether there was a Method to her sadness.

That skepticism demonstrates

A) How much credibility her campaign has lost

B) How far gone the are the cynics who report and analyze these things.

As an example: When the word went out that Hillary was taking charge of her campaign and relying less on her staff, there were many, including Yours Truly, who wondered if that “message of the day” was merely the latest creation of her advisers.

Let’s assume, though, that what we are seeing is the genuine Hillary, stepping out from behind the barriers that all of her handlers erected. That could only work to her advantage All these walls really accomplished was keeping her separated from the voters. If the government would really like to construct a fence on our borders, some of the folks on the Clinton staff could provide some expertise.

But I digress. Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that we were watching real human emotion. It is refreshing to note that it’s not that big a deal. The lasting effect is the happy realization there will be no lasting effect.

Well, there is that dumbass comment from John Edwards, where he reacted by snippily reminding us “…what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being President of the United States is also tough business”. Whatever.

Still, Edwards is in a good position in New Hampshire. He’s not expected to do well, so as long as he finishes ahead of Dennis Kucinich he should be able to march on.

The big question for Democrats is whether rock-star Barack Obama leaves the state as the party’s main act or whether Hillary Clinton pulls a big surprise and regains top billing. If she does not, look for her to replace some of her roadies.

OK. Have we tortured that analogy enough? Let’s move to the right.

Mitt Romney is in danger of getting his clock cleaned still again. If that happens, he’ll march on, putting his best face on this “humbling lesson in the democratic process” or some such crap. Will he consider pulling out? Of course not. He’s got to do something with all his money.

Things begin to really change Wednesday. So far the Republican story lines have been about Romney and Huckabee and Romney and McCain. If John McCain, uh, surges to victory in New Hampshire, the plot thickens.

Sooner or later Rudy Giuliani gets into the act, or at least tries to. If the Romney and Huckabee candidacies dissolve, The party’s battle could end up being a McCain-Giuliani contest. That would be a fundamentalist conservative’s nightmare. The GOP might end up “baseless”.

After the Iowa and New Hampshire votes, the runners have only left the starting blocks. The race has so many miles to go, so many hurdles, so many metaphors.

Let’s not get too hung up on February 5th. True, we should have a good idea who dominated the early election season. But what we won’t know is what we don’t know. By that I mean there will certainly be some huge surprises between now and the time we finally choose our next president. Unexpected surprises. That, you can expect.

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