In her victory speech last night, Hillary Clinton probably nailed the underlying reason for her remarkable comeback in New Hampshire. In the last three days, Clinton had changed her pattern, spending far more time taking questions and comments and less time delivering the same old stump speech. "I listened to you," she told the voters of New Hampshire, "and in the process, I found my own voice.
"Too many have been invisible for too long; you’re not invisible to me. . . . There will be no more invisible Americans. . . .
"Now let’s give the country the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me."
On MSNBC last night, Katrina vanden Heuvel made the point that these candidates are learning from each other. Obama’s speech borrowed populist themes from Edwards, she noted, adding that Clinton probably turned her campaign around when she said she rediscovered the progressive causes and reasons why she was running.
When Clinton castigated the oil companies, the insurance companies, the drug companies, the predatory loan companies, she was echoing Edward’s speeches. "For seven years they’ve had a President who stood up for them. Now it’s time you had someone stand up for you."
Edwards and Obama each delivered eloquent and gracious speeches, congratulating Hillary Clinton but also reaffirming their respective central themes. Obama’s speech restated how important hope has become in this race. In the face of an unexpected second place, his rejection of the claim of "false hope" and his insistence that "yes, we can" seemed the right message for his supporters and the country. (And it will play well elsewhere as "si, se puede.")
There was something else new in Obama’s speech — at least since Iowa. It was the declaration of the new, emerging majority of Americans who are eager for change — "something’s happening in America" — echoing the notion that last night again signaled a growing public repudiation of the Bush/Cheney regime. As in Iowa, the increase in votes for Democrats swamped those for Republicans. "We are ready to take this country in a fundamentally different direction," Obama declared, as he listed just some of the issues on which the current regime has been abysmal.
Edwards reminded us of the people he’s met, the people who needed a helping hand but didn’t get it. He vowed to keep fighting for them, so he’s staying in the race through the nomination. Rejecting the media’s annoying tendency to eliminate voices prematurely, Edwards reminded them it’s important to hear from the 99 percent of the country that had not yet voted.
It was another great night for Democrats. We’ll continue to have at least three strong voices, each articulating important pieces of the Democratic message — hope, experience, competence, commitment, empathy, and passion — plus a rejection of BushCheneyism. It’s a winning progressive combination for whoever pulls it all together, and now they all see it.
In Iowa last week, Obama’s youth roared; in New Hampshire last night, Hillary’s women roared back. The Democrats are becoming lions. Be afraid, Bush Republicans; be very afraid.