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11/ 8/06

11:32 AM


It's Hillary's Show Now

Bill Clinton, back and to the left.Photograph: Getty Images

Despite winning 67 percent of the vote, Hillary Clinton's victory speech was, of course, overshadowed for some observers by Bill, who stood at her side smiling and clapping but saying nothing. It would've been an unprecedented moment for a candidate's spouse had he taken the mike.

But if his silence wasn't unconventional, his aloneness was. During Hillary's 2000 victory speech, Clinton was among a throng of supporters on the podium, and he did a decent job of blending into the scenery. Last night, Chelsea wasn't even on hand, leaving a gaping absence on the massive stage. But even going against those odds, Hillary made herself the show. The optimistically yellow suit didn't hurt, nor did the concise speech. Her rebuke of Cheney's "full speed ahead" fiat ("Tonight America said, 'Not. So. Fast.'") was nice, too.

People who obviously changed their voting habits to elect a Democratic majority (male voters split 50/50 last night, a third of Evangelicals voted for Democrats) were taking a chance on a party in which Hillary is now the standard bearer. She did her best to suggest a kinder, gentler Clintonism — all the economically sound, socially moderate policies you've been clamoring for without the soap-opera bullshit.

If voters could see this, pundits could not. Later that night on MSNBC, Democrat campaign strategist Bob Shrum used the image of Bill & Hill alone in the spotlight to once again dig up the notion of a "Clinton problem" — "Al Gore had one, John Kerry had one, Hillary Clinton has one," he declaimed to the chortling approval of Chris Matthews. (Shrum was the chief adviser to both Gore and Kerry's bumbling campaigns, and their Shrum problems easily outweighed their Clinton problems.) Last night, Hillary asserted that whatever Clinton problems lie ahead are ones she can own herself, and not let the world blame on her husband.

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