Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 11:33 UK

Clinton the 'insider' swept aside

By Matthew Price
BBC News, New York

Hillary Clinton
Mrs Clinton chose to run as the candidate with experience

Last November, at about seven in the morning, I remember trying to ask Hillary Clinton a quick question as she swept out of a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, and into a waiting car.

Her press people said the BBC would not buy any favours with the Clinton team by shoving a microphone under the former first lady's nose.

Instead they said we might like to drive across town, to the Drake Diner on 25th Street, where we could film Senator Clinton having breakfast.

There we found her chatting to some people just off the nightshift - people among her core constituency.

The thing that I remember most was her failure to look people in the eye as she spoke to them.

There was nothing shifty about this.

I was just surprised she was not a little better at the personal touch.


In fact, in those early days some argued there was a certain arrogance about the Clinton campaign.

Journalists trying to get interviews with the candidate or even a low-level team member were often given short shrift.

Mrs Clinton seemed inaccessible - aloof, some said.

In the words of one Iowan Democrat I met that day: "She's George Bush in a skirt."

The advocacy of change that she has represented throughout her whole career has not been fully reflected
Douglas Schoen, pollster and political strategist

That was probably a bit off the mark, but it illustrated a good point.

Many see Hillary Clinton as an insider, one of the political elite, the establishment.

Her supporters disagree, of course, but she has found it hard to shake off the image.

In fact her campaign strategy of painting herself as "experienced" enough to do the job from day one, inadvertently helped to reinforce the point.

That has proven costly in a country where the electorate as a whole is unhappy with the way politicians - from both main parties - are running things.

Darling of the party

Douglas Schoen is a pollster and political strategist who worked on Bill Clinton's successful re-election in 1996.

It's not easy, it's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I just didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do
Hillary Clinton, in New Hampshire

He believes that Barack Obama's nomination proves that the electorate wants something different this year.

"I think he has come up with a big idea, which is that people are angry, they want an outsider, they want change, they want conciliation, they want bipartisan solutions.

"The tragedy of the Hillary Clinton camp is that the bipartisanship that she represented in Washington has gone unrecognised on the stump. The advocacy of change that she has represented throughout her whole career has not been fully reflected, and I think in retrospect her campaign has not been able to get that message across as compellingly as perhaps Barack Obama did."

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been the darlings of the Democratic Party for at least the last two decades, and their influence will not be swept away easily.

It has been hard for much of the establishment to break from the Clintons, as was evidenced by the length of time it took Senator Obama to persuade the super-delegates to swing his way.

Hillary Clinton visits a Dairy Queen ice cream bar, Indiana, 4 May 2008 (File picture)
Does Mrs Clinton have a problem connecting with ordinary voters?

Senator Clinton also clearly has huge support across the country - she did not lose the nomination by all that much.

Many people would say that, if anything, she has enhanced her own personal standing.

Once she was in her husband's shadow. Now, the argument goes, she has emerged as a politician of true grit and determination in her own right.

"As the first serious woman candidate for president, she has left a powerful mark on the system," says Douglas Schoen.

She also remains, her supporters say, a committed advocate of change and it is hard to see her bowing out of public life.

She still commands significant influence in the party and the country.

But it is Mr Obama who will now be portrayed by his supporters as the Democratic Party's trail-blazer.

Many will see him as the new face of Democratic politics, a break from the past, a breath of fresh air.

In that sense, and especially if Mr Obama is successful and wins the White House, perhaps a new era has indeed been ushered in.

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