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Clinton Set Out to Earn Trust, Make Connections

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Clinton Set Out to Earn Trust, Make Connections

Election 2008

Clinton Set Out to Earn Trust, Make Connections

Clinton Set Out to Earn Trust, Make Connections

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Sen. Hillary Clinton entered the presidential race with two big challenges. One was to make herself the first woman Americans trusted with the presidency. The other was to make more Americans like her as a personality.


When Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for president a year ago, she told Americans, I am the most famous person you really don't know.

NPR's David Greene has been following Clinton around the country, and he reports on how she's handled the likeability challenge.

DAVID GREENE: Hillary Clinton was at a debate in New Hampshire last month and the moderator came at her with this.


SCOTT SPRADLING: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight who see a resume and like it, but are hesitating on the likeability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings.


GREENE: The next day, Clinton said there was a lesson from the debate.

CLINTON: Obviously, we all want to be likeable. And I think it's good to have a likeable president. But if I remember right, a lot of people said they were voting for George Bush because they want to have a beer with him, and maybe they should have left it at that. Have a beer, don't vote him in as our president.


GREENE: But personal connections are important in politics, and Hillary Clinton has struggled with them. Democratic voters talk about her experience and how she inspires confidence, but they rarely talk about her as a person. That seemed to change, though, in one television moment in New Hampshire.

CLINTON: You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening and we have to reverse it.

GREENE: The footage of her tearing up aired all over New Hampshire. Thirty-six- year-old Cristina Anderson(ph) said at the time that she saw it and decided to vote for Clinton.

CRISTINA ANDERSON: I didn't really see that as an emotional outburst or crying at all. What I saw is someone who really felt deeply about what they were doing and felt trust and some conviction, and I connected to that.

GREENE: That was the storyline as Clinton won New Hampshire. And it was powerful enough that when she seemed to choke up again today while campaigning in Connecticut, the brief moment of emotion made national news.

CLINTON: Well, I said I would not tear up...


CLINTON: ...and already, we're not exactly on that path.

GREENE: But such moments of vulnerability has been rare. And in the last primary in South Carolina, the Clinton campaign showed its tougher side. That side was often represented by Senator Clinton's husband, Bill, who made it his job to go after Barack Obama. The effect was to take focus away from the candidate herself. And Hillary Clinton seemed to know that. A few days after South Carolina, she made a point of telling reporters, this is my campaign.

Last night, relaxed but exhausted, Hillary Clinton came to a Super Bowl party in Minneapolis. She agreed to talk for a few minutes about her effort to define herself.

CLINTON: I've been passionate about children's issues and women's issues and issues of justice - legal and economic - for my entire life. And I think that, you know, as the campaign went on, it became clear that I needed to, you know, demonstrate sort of who I am as a total package. You know, what I believe in, what I care about, why I do what I do. And so, I've worked on that all year.

GREENE: But then, there's the share-a-beer factor, the question of which candidate voters would rather just hang out with.

CLINTON: I don't think this is a student council election. I think this is really serious business about the direction of our country.

GREENE: The suggestion was, you know, you might not want to have a beer me, but I'll be a great president. Do people now want to sit down and have a beer with you?

CLINTON: A lot of people do. I've had more than a few beers at the campaign trail this past year. Had some, you know, good local beers and microbrews. So, you know, I think it's the wrong question.

GREENE: She says it's not about sharing a beer; it's about sharing goals and a commitment to getting things done.

David Green, NPR News, New Haven, Connecticut.

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Candidates Make Last Appeals to Voters

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) greets supporters during a campaign appearance at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. on Jan. 3. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a roundtable discussion at Yale Child Study Center Feb. 4 in New Haven, Conn. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Supporters wait for the arrival of former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP hopeful Mitt Romney at the Pancake Pantry Feb. 4 in Nashville, Tenn. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) greets supporters during a rally at the IZOD Center on Feb. 4 in East Rutherford, N.J. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Arkansas Gov. and GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee takes questions during the MTV/MySpace presidential forum on Feb. 2 in New York City. Scott Gries/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott Gries/Getty Images

Voters in 24 states were set to shake up the presidential primary map in both parties on "Super Tuesday," with Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a close fight and Republican John McCain hoping for a decisive victory over rival Mitt Romney.

More than half of the total Democratic delegates and about 40 percent of the GOP delegates are up for grabs.

Most opinion polls showed a tight Democratic race in many states. Among Republicans, Sen. McCain had solid leads in most of the big battleground states.

Competition is particularly fierce in delegate-rich states such as California, Illinois and New York. Eight of the 21 Republican contests are winner-takes-all affairs — in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, Utah and Montana.

McCain Turns to the Party's Base

On the Republican side, 71-year-old Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has benefited from a changing political climate. The decline of violence in Iraq has persuaded some voters that McCain was right to support the troop surge, while others just see it as a less-pressing issue.

But McCain still has to win over conservative Republicans, who are alarmed by the same nonconformist streak that delights independents. McCain insists he can keep all the factions of the party together in the same big tent.

"We may have a disagreement on an issue or two. That's healthy. Wouldn't we be pretty boring if we agreed on everything?" he told Illinois Republicans at a recent dinner.

McCain has concentrated his campaigning in the Northeast, making stops in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.

Clinton Re-Emphasizing Softer Side

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's recent campaign strategy has been to show voters more of her personality and try to reintroduce herself to the American public as a gentler figure — not necessarily someone who you would want to have beers with, but certainly someone who voters trust.

At a Super Bowl party in Minneapolis on Sunday, she talked about her efforts to define herself over the last month.

"I've been passionate about children's issues and women's issues and issues of justice, legal and economic, my entire life. And I think as the campaign went on, it became clear that I needed to demonstrate who I am as a total package. You know what I believe in, what I care about, why I do what I do, and I worked on that all year," she said.

After the Superbowl party in Minnesota, she returned to the Northeast for campaign stops in New Haven, Conn. at her alma mater, Yale, and in New York. Her husband and former President, Bill Clinton, campaigned on her behalf throughout California in Orange County, Sacramento, Stockton and San Francisco.

Romney Portrays Himself as Best Conservative Option

GOP rival and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is hoping to win the votes of conservative Southerners who may have supported former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson or former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani before they dropped out.

At a Nashville diner on Monday, he talked about his stance on immigration.

"Do you want a nominee who helped write McCain-Kennedy that gave amnesty to illegal aliens? No! Do you want a nominee instead who represents conservative principals and keep us inside the house that Ronald Reagan built?" he said.

But Nashville just one of many stops he made leading up to Super Tuesday, jetting between Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma, California and West Virginia.

Obama Looks Ahead to the November Election

On the Democratic side, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama campaigned in Connecticut. Recently, he has adopted a two-pronged strategy: first, to highlight the policy differences between him and rival Sen. Clinton on issues such as Iraq. Secondly, Obama talks about which candidate would do better against Republican front-runner McCain.

"I can offer a clear and clean break from the failed policies of George W. Bush. I won't have to explain my votes in the past," Obama said at a rally in Delaware — referring to Clinton's original support of the Iraq war.

Huckabee Stumps Throughout the South

One-quarter of the delegates at stake on Super Tuesday are in the South. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has been wooing the region's large number of evangelical voters, who helped him win the Iowa caucuses — his first and only win during the early voting contests.

But Huckabee has become more realistic as McCain and Romney's primary wins have mounted. After pumping up the crowd at the Chattanooga Convention Center, Huckabee told reporters that there are not a set number of delegates that he needs to win on Tuesday. The important part to focus on, he said, is that he is still in the game.

From NPR staff reports