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Robert Brustein Headshot

Method Man Vs. Character Woman

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Obama's extraordinary momentum in the last 11 primaries is partly a triumph of casting. Hillary Clinton has not found a consistent role to play either on the campaign trail or on the debate platform, and Obama has. In an age when the camera captures every detail of a person's mood or karma, Obama's consistency has given him a superior sense of authenticity.

Being the first woman presidential candidate in history has put an enormous strain on Hillary's sense of self. Modern women have trouble enough juggling a large variety of roles -- spouse and mother, wage-earner and caregiver, etc. -- but when you add to these Hillary's history with Bill, the pressure to have a "soft" side and a "tough side," the need to show the "true Hillary" and yet qualify as Commander-in-Chief on "Day One," an overnight evolution from supporting player to major star, you are putting an incredible responsibility on a single performer.

Playing too many roles over too short a time tends to make an actor look inauthentic. Anyone who has met Hillary Clinton knows her for a warm, engaging, decent person, but the woman being projected on our TV screens, with her frozen smile and metallic voice, does not resemble the true Hillary. Maybe less perfect makeup and hair styling, even a loose hairpin, might help to overcome the prevailing look of plastic perfection.

Obama, on the other hand, has no hairstyle at all and seems completely at ease within his own skin. When he walks to the podium, he almost seems to be dancing, he responds to mean-spirited remarks with an easy humor, writing a note on a scratch pad with his left hand, his half-smile suggesting that he knows a lot more than he is saying. And although he can either rouse the spirit like an inspirational black preacher or freeze the brain like a fact-driven Harvard law professor, he fills each function with considerable conviction. In short, Hillary is losing this race because she's an over-stretched character actor, forced to play too many insufficiently-rehearsed roles. Obama is winning it because, like others in the Method school, he has chosen to act a single part only, a highly consistent version of himself.