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Rhetorically, Hillary Clinton hits the right notes

January 8, 2008 |  9:13 pm

Manchester, N.H., -- Hillary Clinton, in claiming her victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary, almost had to make a nod to the "Comeback Kid" label her husband so deftly applied to himself in finishing second in the party's contest 16 years ago. And she pulled it off -- also deftly.

She avoided simply parroting Bill Clinton ("Comeback Girl?" Comeback Gal?" Comeback Lady?" -- none would  have worked). Instead, in one of her first lines to her understandably jubilant supporters, she said: "Now together, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me."

Even better, though, were the two sentences that preceded that one: "Over the last week, I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice. I felt like we all spoke from our hearts, and I'm so gratified that you responded."

With the first of those lines, she defined herself as back on her game -- and guiding her own political fate -- in rebounding from her third-place finish in Iowa. And with the second, she slyly referenced her rare public show of emotion Monday -- a moment that many will argue keyed her win and, whatever the merits of that view, now will be an eternal part of U.S. political lore.

Her campaign also clearly learned a stagecraft lesson.

Last week, as she spoke after losing in Iowa, those in camera range included not only her husband, but faces from his administration (i.e., the past), such as Madeline Albright. Tuesday night, she walked onstage by herself. Only after she accepted and bathed and beamed in enthusiastic acclamation from her audience did Bill and Chelsea Clinton make a brief appearance for family hugs. And they quickly exited, leaving the candidate standing on her own.

-- Don Frederick

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