After suffering her ninth and tenth consecutive losses in a row last night, it’s understandable that Hillary Clinton this morning called for an alternate reality.
“Let’s get real,” she said in a Hunter College auditorium that seemed to be packed mostly with the middle-aged women who make up her base. “Let’s get real about this election. Let’s get real about our future.”
With the must-win contests in Texas and Ohio looming, Clinton’s task of exorcising Democratic voters of their enchantment with Barack Obama seems more difficult by the day. This morning, she continued to try to turn Obama’s eloquence against him by suggesting, once again, that he is all fancy talk and no action.
“It is time to get real, to get real about how we actually win this election,” she said, adding, “It is time that we moved from good words to good works, from good sound bites to good solutions.”
That line brought the crowd to its feet. It was less enthusiastically received when she went immediately back to the just-words well, repeating that the country needed a president “who relies not just on words but on work — on hard work” and “we need to make a choice between speeches and solution” and “the best words in the world aren’t enough unless you match them with action.”
“This,” she added, “is becoming more apparent every day.”
But that message has yet to catch on with primary voters. He won by wide margins last night in Wisconsin and Hawaii and he has narrowed Clinton’s lead in Texas and Ohio. The media is circling.
The enthusiasm at today’s small-dollar fund-raiser was supposed to be an answer to that.
After a Broadway star belted the national anthem over crackling speaker feedback, shouts of “we love you Hillary” and building “Hillary” chants filled the music-less interval before Clinton and Chuck Schumer took the stage.
“It’s great to be home,” Clinton announced, to applause.
Then Schumer, who is balancing his roles as a critical Clinton supporter and Democratic Party leader, gave his Senate colleague an emphatic introduction that notably did not say anything negative about Obama.
Instead, he focused on John McCain.
“Make no mistake about it, this man follows Bush’s policies 95 percent of the time,” said Schumer, removing his glasses. “We have to beat him. To me it is a moral imperative.
“And we know who the candidate is who can beat him,” he said as the crowd rose to its feet and Clinton stood at his side with her hands folded in front of her.
Schumer echoed Clinton’s talking point that she was the only candidate who had withstood the assaults of the Republican attack machine and could do so again. He demonstrated this physically.
“When they take out their 2 by 4,” he said assuming a batter’s stance. “She’ll be ready with her 4 by 8 to hit them back.” He swung his imaginary lumber. Clinton seemed to approve.
He attested to Clinton’s knack for comebacks, and announced to Ohio and Texas: “Get ready, because here she comes.”
Clinton then took the podium. Rows of young enthusiastic people sat behind her, in the camera’s frame. In front of her the audience was mostly middle-aged. Many of the contributors were women with graying hair.
After quickly acknowledging the way things have actually gone for her (“I want to congratulate Senator Obama,” Clinton said, adding, “He has had a good couple of weeks”) she insisted the race was not supposed to be easy, was far from over and would come down to the primary states of Texas and Ohio, where, she said, “We are going to be squaring off.”
She did her best to attack what her campaign argues is a silly meta-narrative about Obama’s candidacy that has obscured the real issues.
“This campaign is not about a campaign,” she said. “This campaign is not about a personality, this campaign is about hundreds of millions of Americans.”
To reinforce the notion that she was the candidate most tethered to reality and the plight of working people, she added, “Now others might be joining a movement — well I’m joining you on the night shift and the day shift.”
After the speech, some of Clinton’s supporters in the crowd picked up on that theme and expressed anger with the way things have unfolded.
“She’s changing her strategy because there are a lot of people who have fallen into the wake of Barack Obama and those people have to get real,” said Mary Ann Dellabadia, a 52-year-old nurse, who added that even if Obama made it through to the general election, “I’m not voting for him.”
“It is a cult and it’s mostly the college kids and they’re stupid,’ she said.
Her friend, Mary Jo Pane, interjected.
“I will vote ‘present’ if he is the Democratic candidate — everyone I know feels that way,” said Pane, a 55-year-old
nurse jewelry designer. “The press has made him what he is. It’s a very irresponsible election cycle when the press has this much control.”