Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigned in South Carolina Wednesday, and if you want an example of why she’s not tripping all over herself to talk to the media, you need only to look at the coverage she’s gotten so far. When they’re not stressing the fugazi sex-based “rivalry” with Single White Candidate Carly Fiorina, the press has been focused on a quip Clinton made about coloring her hair:
“I am aware I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I have one big advantage. I have been coloring my hair for years. So you are not going to see me turn white in the White House. And you’re also not going to see me shrink from a fight.”
True, it was a clever quip that neutralized the age and gender issues simultaneously, but it was hardly the most newsworthy part of the speech, nor is the one-sided shadowboxing match Carly Fiorina is having with Hillary. The substance of Clinton’s speech offered plenty to report on, as she spoke about equal pay, family leave, sexual harassment, and the measly $2.13 minimum wage for tipped workers, and even took a hard shot at Wall Street hedge fund managers.
But politically, the real story of the speech wasn’t the color of Hillary’s hair, it was the way she dealt with the elephant in the room: her 2008 defeat in what was a bitter primary battle in the state. Even under pressure from Elizabeth Warren to back away from President Obama, Clinton made a point of peppering her speech with praise for her former rival, and even directly addressed that last campaign directly:
“Some of you might remember we had a pretty vigorous campaign in 2008. and both President Obama and I worked really hard, and he won, and I lost, and then I went to work to make sure he would win. And I was so relieved, I was just so relieved when, finally, November 2008 came around, and he did.”
That snippet was part of a nearly 10-minute story whose entire purpose was to quiet the echoes of that contentious primary, a shrewd recognition that she needs the Obama coalition to turn out for her in 2016. and even in the primary. With progressives drooling over Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and Elizabeth Warren’s anti-Obama insurgency, less-than-overwhelming showings in early states could make for a weakened candidacy, even if she eventually wins the Democratic nod.
Like that slight southern twang, though, it will be interested to see if this emphasis on her relationship with President Obama stays with Hillary as she campaigns in places where it might not be such an obvious plus.