Not since Ronald Reagan's challenge to Gerald Ford in 1976 has a losing candidate dominated so much of the convention discussion as Hillary Clinton this year. Even in a week dedicated to Barack Obama, almost every conversation begins, “What will Hillary do?” At least as important, what will her supporters do?
Talk to the couple who drove all the way from Kansas without credentials to any event except Thursday's Mile High Stadium acceptance speech by Obama. They worry that Clinton and her supporters will somehow undermine Obama — and cost him the election.
But talk to the people who know Clinton best, and the tone is different. Convention delegate Jane Gray Todd of Sherwood, Ark., has known Clinton since her state's then-first lady spoke to her Jaycee club in 1983.
“We were just swept off our feet by her intelligence,” Todd said. “More than that, she was always gracious.”
Todd spoke warmly of Hillary Clinton's visit to Rogers, Ark, in 2006, and of the encouragement Clinton offered when she heard that Todd's son was traveling to South Korea on a student exchange.
Moreover, Clinton remembered Todd's passing reference to Todd's own upcoming neck surgery. Not long afterwards, Todd received a prayerful get-well card from former President Bill Clinton.
Political analysts who focus on Clinton's toughness and ideology easily forget that her support is also based on a deep reservoir of personal touches. That ability to “connect” emotionally is one reason the Clintons are such resilient and enduring political figures.