Al Gore Redux
01-18-2008
Since Hillary Clinton’s surprise win in the New Hampshire Primary last week, much has been made about Clinton finally discovering her voice as a candidate. But a piece in yesterday’s New York Times reminds us that this process of redefinition has actually been underway for quite some time. As the article notes, Clinton has debuted several public personas over the past year, and a quick web search underscores this thesis with similar stories from January, May, October and December of 2007. The Times article goes on to suggest that, even with the winning chord struck by Clinton in New Hampshire, the personality tweaking is not yet complete:
 
“…as her advisers said after New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton cannot cry her way to the Democratic nomination. So she and her team have been searching for the right personality to help her connect emotionally with voters.”
 
As I reflect on Clinton’s ongoing struggle to recast her public persona, I am increasingly reminded of Al Gore’s similar experience with personality issues, during his run for the presidency in 2000. I reread a selection of press coverage from that 2000 presidential campaign season, and was struck anew by the way Gore was pilloried in the media for being a “stiff” and “wooden” candidate.  In the wake of his Nobel Prize and the critical success of An Inconvenient Truth, it seems we have almost forgotten Gore’s public humiliation over disclosure that he was advised to transform his candidacy by wearing earth-toned suits and being more alpha male than beta. No one would deny that Gore now sports a very different public persona than he did back then.
 
It would be nice to think that Clinton has finally settled on her authentic self, but my guess is that we have not seen the last of these periodic adjustments to her political persona. While Democratic primary and caucus goers seem to be generally accepting of this very public quest for personal authenticity as a candidate, Al Gore would probably advise Hillary Clinton that potential Republican opponents will not be quite as understanding.


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