Hillary Clinton is at her best when she’s counted out, campaigning her heart out

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The Anointed One may be gone, but so are dem good old days of the boys on the bus. Theres no crying in New Hampshire anymore

There is a picture on the wall of the Espresso Café here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in a corner near the exit. Hillary Clinton is talking to voters, but it doesnt show the famous Hillary cried moment from eight years ago, when the senator teared up on the eve of the presidential primary.

She was exhausted, and a loss to Barack Obama was predicted. Some pundits believed the unusual display of emotion was a turning point that helped show Clinton had a human side.

That was sexism. Why do powerful women need to show their softer side or shed tears to be considered fully human?

The whole issue of Clintons likeability now, on the verge of a potential defeat to Bernie Sanders, as then against Obama rests on a long established, sexist double standard that many sociologists and business-school professors have studied: power and likeability have a negative corollary with powerful women. With men, that is not the case. If Clinton is judged too powerful and aggressive, shes dinged for being unlikeable. If shes too soft, shes dismissed. Women, unlike men, are rarely perceived as warm and competent. This locks them in a classic double-bind. Certainly, Ive seen it at points in my own career.

Rand Paul may be coming Sunday, one of the waitresses in the Portsmouth coffee shop told me the other day, hopefully. (I didnt have the heart to tell her that he wasnt coming because he had dropped out of the Republican field that morning.)

In her speeches and in debates with Sanders over the past week, Clinton vacillated between stressing her competence as a progressive who gets things done and talking more personally. Mostly, she got the equation right.

Chuck Campion, a Boston consultant who helped power Clintons come-back-from-the dead win in New Hampshire eight years ago, described her amazing fortitude. She campaigned til the last dog dies, just as her husband famously said in 1992, when scandal almost led to loss in the Granite State. Turns out, Clintons are often at their best when they face defeat.

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Hunter Thompson on the campaign trail, 1976. Photograph: AG/Keystone USA/REX/Shutterstock/Rex via Shutterstock

A wonderful part of the New Hampshire primary is that it is, in itself, personal. You can cover many campaign spots, some in small places, and see many candidates in a single day, by pure virtue that the state it is so small. Its full of citizens who believe its their civic duty to see for themselves before the voting on Tuesday.

This is Hillary Clintons fourth New Hampshire primary, if you count Bills two. It might be her last, and its been poignant to see her up here, campaigning her heart out once again.

It was a bit nostalgic for me, too. My first New Hampshire primary reporting was in 1976. I was a college senior pining to be a real reporter. I remember going to the Sheraton Wayfarer hotel in Manchester after the votes were counted, gazing at the giants of political journalism at the time the gonzo master Hunter S Thompson included. They were the famous boys on the bus. (Both Thompson and the author of that book, Timothy Crouse, worked for Rolling Stone.) I dont remember seeing a woman anywhere, and I didnt think I would ever get to sit on a barstool with the big boys. Still, its true, as Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner recently emailed me: Well, Jill, they is called dem good ole days. And the stakes werent as high and there was so much less media.

On Wednesday, I went to two of Clintons get-out-the-vote rallies and watched her in a CNN candidate forum. Although she confessed it is hard for her, Clinton was more personal than Ive seen her. In Manchester, she spoke of her mothers hard life and resilience, which she obviously shares. We may get knocked down, but we get back up, Clinton said to cheers.

She talked about the people who come up to her after her appearances, who tell her their stories: about medicine that wasnt affordable, about a son who died of a drug overdose, or the duress of caring for a family member with Alzheimers disease.

In Dover, she almost began to choke up when she said, People share their hearts because they hope someone will respond. At the CNN town hall, she gave her most thoughtful answer to a philosophical question posed by a rabbi in the audience. He asked her: How do you cultivate the ego the ego that we all know you must have, a person must have to be the leader of the free world and also the humility to recognize that we know that you cant be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?

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Ive had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues, Clinton said at a town hall on Wednesday. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I think about this a lot, Clinton answered. Um, I feel very fortunate that I am a person of faith, that I was raised in my church and that I have had to deal and struggle with a lot of these issues about ambition and humility, about service and self-gratification all of the human questions that all of us deal with. But when you put yourself out into the public arena, I think its incumbent upon you to be as self-conscious as possible. She talked about her husbands being more of a political natural than she is. She revealed that a minister, with whom she is close, emails her a piece of scripture every morning at 5am.

Then there was an addendum: And the final thing I would say, because again, its not anything Ive ever talked about this much publicly, everybody knows I I have lived a very public life for the last 25 or so years. And so Ive had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues political, public issues. And I read a, um, a treatment of the prodigal son parable by the Jesuit Henri Nouwen, who I think is a magnificent writer of spiritual and theological concerns. And I I read that parable and there was a line in it that became just a lifeline for me. And it basically is practice:

The discipline of gratitude.

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Clinton introduces former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and herself in Manchester on Wednesday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

It is odd that Hillary Clinton, one of the most familiar figures in American politics, has repeatedly felt the need to re-introduce herself in more personal terms.

Although shes been criticized for serving too much spinach, she delved into her platform, too, and no one is more impressive or knowledgeable on the issues. At each appearance I saw up-close-and-personal this week, she drew contrasts with Sanders on taxes, healthcare and guns. In Manchester, she was joined at a rally with former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was almost killed by a gunman in 2011.

By 8pm on Wednesday, she was still explaining the differences with her opponent over the Affordable Care Act; she was due at the televised CNN forum with Sanders an hour later. (Sanders would, she said, scrap Obamacare and start all over again with a pie-in-the-sky health reform plan that could never pass Congress.)

Clinton was once expected to trounce Sanders, but he has held a big lead in New Hampshire. So much for being the Anointed One. With the sudden rise of Marco Rubio on the Republican side, her campaign wasnt getting as much attention as it did in 2008. Clintons nearly-down-but-not-out campaigning certainly didnt feel like the high-wire act it was eight years ago.

Some of her advisers think an upset is still possible up here. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, sought to lower expectations and said at a Thursday breakfast hosted by Bloomberg News that Clinton faced significant head winds. But, he added, We are here and we are all in. Sanders huge following among young voters (he won 84% of them in Iowa) and surprisingly large campaign coffers will likely carry the Democratic nomination fight well into the spring.

The Wayfarer hotel was torn down in March. These days, an anodyne bar and restaurant at the Radisson seems to be the press hangout in Manchester. The reporters are busy tweeting and doing TV interviews, rather than drinking and smoking, and plenty of them are female, from digital outfits that didnt even exist back when Hillary cried. That was a long time ago now.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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