The Presidential Race - Energized

Behind The News
January 8, 2008 1:13:12 PM PST
So many months of what seemed like tedious and never-ending debates and appearances. Seemed like it because it was. Remember when the complaint was that the Presidential campaign season was too long, too dragged out? No more. What an exciting time. And what a fast-paced calendar of primary elections.

Tonight we'll have the results of the New Hampshire primary - where turnout, according to the Secretary of State, is "absolutely huge." In fact it's so large that they're afraid of running out of ballots in some towns.

Fantabulous. (Not the running out of ballots part.)

And there's no question having a woman and an African American as two of the three leading candidates is playing no small part in the suddenly energized Presidential race - at least on the Democratic Party side. And we would be blind to reality if we weren't aware of the importance so many women place on having a viable female candidate, or on how so many blacks in this country feel strongly about an African American having a real shot at residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The emotional day for Hillary Clinton on Monday sparked much coverage and discussion, and I thank all of you who wrote in with your thoughts. (I am including some of your emails at the end of this column.)

I'm not sure there's a bottom line to it all, but most people seemed to think that Sen. Clinton's human display humanized her. Big surprise. Whether it's enough to stop what's being called the Obama Movement remains to be seen. And indeed there is speculation this afternoon of some sort of campaign shakeup should Clinton not win in New Hampshire. We'll see.

We have two reporters in New Hampshire for our 11 p.m. coverage - Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett is covering the Republicans (can John McCain win in New Hampshire and pump life into his once-moribund campaign?) and political reporter Dave Evans is on the Democrats.

This is also the eve of President Bush's first official visit to Israel. Our Diana Williams is there for us.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast (this warm weather is wonderful and troubling) and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.


P.S. Here are your emails from yesterday about Hillary Clinton. Again, thanks for sending them and sharing your thoughts.

From Bob in New York City:
"Although estimates of their numbers vary widely, Hillary Haters are rabid and vocal. Her 'tearing up' will likely be characterized as a weakness rather than as being human. Such a weakness is not acceptable to most of the American public who want their President always to appear to be strong. How ironic that when she became strong during the recent debate, (frustrated by Obama et al who indicated we need to take action) citing her specific past accomplishments, her show of strength was characterized as being out-of-control. Amazing!"

Lynnea Bensen, a longtime Behind the News reader took issue with this as an issue:
"Dear Bill, What are we, your loyal audience, supposed to infer from the tremendous importance you attach to Sen Clinton's perceived show of emotion? It smacks of boyish glee, does it not? Can't say I'm surprised at the general media pouncing on this trivial item, but I am disappointed in certain journalists I'd come to think of as enlightened. They should weep for shame."

From Sharon-Frances Reynolds of Missouri:
"Isn't it about time we saw some emotion is our leaders? It's terrific to know that we are not dealing with emotionless automatons! Perhaps we can get back to being a country with feelings! Bravo for reality!!"

Donna Stec from Westfield, New Jersey writes: "Why should Hillary's emotional moment have at least 25 different opinions about what that would mean for her??? When the media needs to analyze and re-analyze and perhaps analyze again a woman putting all of her feelings out there for a cause she feels so strongly about---why not be a bit (and it was a bit--not at all like Ellen Degeneres and the Iggy saga) emotional? And the sincerity was apparent. The media dissection has to stop. Can't wait to hear what Dave,Jay,Conan et al have to say about this. Theirs may be the only opinion that counts and wins votes. How's that for a media analysis? By the way--I'm a Republican and no fan of Hillary. But us emotion-packed women need to stick together."

And from a woman who wanted to be identified only as a "feisty grandma of 9":
"Love watching the news when you are on it. Love your 'Behind the News With Bill Ritter' too.As far as Hillary crying. I really am sorry to say, I don't care. However, if she did, she did it because her campaign people told her to. She didn't do it because she was sad or upset. It was a last ditch effort for sympathy, votes and to soften her ice cold image. If she did cry...than I have to say she must want the White House a lot more than Bill. After all he put her through with his Monicagate...we never saw a tear....hardly a flinch. This she cries for????? I think it is time Hillary comes back to New York and be the Senator she pledged she would be. Did she forget that campaign pledge to serve the people of New York?"

Tom Smith of Jamesport, New York says: "After watching Sen. Clinton having a slight crack in her voice during a speech I have to wonder just where we as Americans are headed for if this becomes a reason for voting for her or not! I, as a registered conservative for 50+ years, and who as a recently re-registered Democrat have to wonder if we need another President who's only concern is his duty to the so called neocon's and lunatic fringes of this country.

As an American I am absolutely disgusted with both parties who's main concern is to be both reelected and to ensure that big business is well taken care of, and not for the health and welfare of the citizens of our great country. Under the present leadership we have amassed a debt of approximately $10 trillion. We are cutting basic services to the bone to pay for a war that the majority of American are against. We are the laughing stock of the world because of our inept foreign policies. Our education system is in shambles as is our leadership.Yet all that seems to be a mote point just as long as both parties score points with the lunatic fringes on both the left and the right. In my mind, at this moment in time, I think that I have to choose either between Sen. Clinton or Sen. McCain as my choice, Sen. Clinton because she shows emotion, something that is needed in Washington D.C. these days, and Sen. McCain, because I believe him to be one of the few honest politicians on the American scene today."

Carol Johnson of Highland Falls, New York says: "I agree Hillary is emotional, but I don't think she is tired and I don't think its a sign of possible defeat, I think its an old fashioned thing called patriotism which she is obviously passionate about and being real and human I was going to vote for her anyway and it just confirms my vote even more."

Terri Ann Palumbo of Florida wrote that: "My feeling is that it's not only her most honest moment to date, it is, and may very well remain, the most completely honest moment of the entire campaign, or any campaign in recent memory. It's sad to say that Senator Clinton will now get Limbaugh'd and Hannity'd and O'Reilly'd to death with jokes and jabs and smart-aleck mocking; I fully expect that's what will happen. If she doesn't cry, she's too tough and clad in iron underwear. If she does cry (and you're right, she didn't cry), she's "just a chick" and therefore too emotional to hold the highest office in the country, which is the (A man two people ahead of me on line at the supermarket tonight got a BIG laugh with "Why are guns better than women? Because you can put silencers on them.") After this particular moment, however, I don't think anyone can fairly and honestly say any longer that Hillary Clinton is some kind of power-hungry egomaniacal machine who's just out to complete a Clinton dynasty. I know fake tears when I see them, and she meant every bit of emotion that seeped through the exterior. I hope that others see it as a good thing that we were able, even briefly, to experience the real Hillary Clinton. When did having a heart become a political liability, for a female or a male candidate? "

Dana Trentacost of Wayne, New Jersey, "thought it was refreshing to see Sen. Clinton show some emotion instead of being like a robot, to me it showed that maybe she is not all that bad after all and I know this is going to sound crazy but, by doing what she did today it will make me pay a little more attention to her."

Janet M. of the Bronx wrote that, "I first saw Hillary's "moment" on the evening news. I still was not sure what all the fuss was about but I paid close attention because of your column. Personally, I think it was the first time I actually felt a politician was saying something they believed. Instead of the usual rhetoric, instead of stating what they think you want to hear, Hillary actually said what she felt, isn't that refreshing! I certainly did not think of it as weak, I thought of it as strong. It takes more strength to put yourself on the line that than anything else. I do believe that Hillary is judged differently because she is a woman, but if anyone is up for the test, she is."

And finally, Kelvin writes that, "after watching the video of Sen. Clinton choking up, I believe the Senator was truly emotional and feels passionate about becoming President of the U.S. While I'm not a Clinton fan and support Barack Obama for President, I believe that for the first time I saw real emotion from Sen. Clinton and she feels passionate about fixing our countries problems."