In “Hillary and Bernie Meet New York” Ms. Collins says there’s a glamour candidate and, uh, a former secretary of state. Here she is:
Democratic presidential campaign news: Hillary Clinton just visited the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum. Meanwhile, Bernie Sandersannounced he is going to the Vatican, where he hopes to meet with the pope.
Have you noticed how Senator Sanders, former mayor of Burlington, Vt., is the glamour candidate while Clinton, former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, seems to follow an itinerary fit for a county commissioner? Welcome to the New York primary.
Yes! It’s New York’s turn! Everyone here is very excited — it’s been a quarter century since anybody paid attention to us during a big election year. Even then it was only for about two minutes, when we had a minor role in ending the presidential prospects of Jerry Brown. But on April 19, New York voters will crown, um — the candidates who get to go on to Pennsylvania.
Actually, it’s a bigger deal than that. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have to win their home state. If John Kasich can do it, it’s the least you can expect.
When Clinton moved to New York in 1999 and announced she was running for the Senate, it sounded thrilling. While we like to pretend New York politics is exciting, it’s mainly just one indictment after another. But a first lady who was a central figure in the most famous sex scandal in American history, running for the Senate in a place where she had never lived? Wow.
Some people — O.K., many people — were suspicious of the most famous woman in the world parachuting in to claim the best political job in the state. But Clinton wore everyone down by having the humility to be stupendously boring. She invented her “listening tour” self, marching through upstate New York, having intense conversations with dairy farmers or small-business people about Internet access and rural redevelopment until the cows literally came home.
It seemed to cast a spell on her opponents. Mayor Rudy Giuliani revealed he had prostate cancer, then told reporters he was leaving his wife without giving her a heads-up, and acknowledged he had a “good friend” who would later become his third spouse. Meanwhile, Clinton announced she had visited all 62 New York counties.
Giuliani dropped out of the race and was replaced by a Long Island congressman, Rick Lazio, a good-natured moderate. By the fall, Lazio had turned into a political disaster, stomping across the stage at the senatorial debate, thrusting a campaign finance pledge under Clinton’s face and bellowing “Sign it! Right now!”
Perhaps there’s something about Clinton that makes her opponents go crazy. It obviously didn’t happen with Barack Obama, but then exceptions make the rule.
Lately, Bernie Sanders seems to have been acting a little … off. There was the terrible interview with The Daily News. (“I don’t know … It’s something I have not studied … I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”) Then there was the strange series of claims that Clinton is not qualified to be president, the most improbable description he could pick short of “lazy.”
That Senate race defined Clinton as a candidate — someone who balanced her stupendous fame and celebrity with down-home, low-key campaigning. The “Listening Tour” was so stuffed with worthy, headline-free discussions that members of her press corps developed twitches, drinking problems or a sudden yearning to be transferred to the culture desk. But voters loved it.
Then in 2008, after a terrible start, presidential candidate Clinton started listening again, with many variations on the Zanesville Economic Summit. She won the Ohio primary and came very close to beating Obama.
This time around, she launched off in a van that was unfortunately named “Scooby,” meeting at an Iowa auto mechanics classroom, then holding a small-business round table at a family-owned fruit company. The biggest drama came in Maumee, Ohio, when she visited a Chipotle and failed to leave money in the tip jar.
What can we learn from all this? First, that Clinton will come out of this year’s campaign better informed about the concerns of everyday Americans than she was when she went in. Her events may be sloggy and staged, but nearly every day she gets some little insight into the woes of preschool teachers, peach farmers with irrigation problems or parents of children with autism.
Second, she isn’t exactly causing hearts to flutter in the process.
Sanders, who doesn’t have to prove he’s down to earth, should be showing us his policy range and depth. Instead, he just keeps giving the same speech. But it’s a wowser, and it’s about change.
Clinton’s not great on full-throated oratory, and she’s about improvement.The very things that have turned her from a political celebrity into a serious presidential candidate are the ones that give her problems in a high-pitched, melodramatic race for the nation’s attention.
We’ll find out soon who her former constituents prefer. Whichever way it goes, you can blame it on Buffalo.