THE BLOG
08/10/2007 01:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Whole New Hillary

A few months through the presidential campaign season, Senator Clinton remains ahead of all the other Democratic and Republican candidates by large margins. Some of the candidates have tried to distinguish themselves from Hillary by branding themselves as the candidates for change and Hillary as a Washington insider belonging to an old political dynasty. The reason that those distinctions have not hurt her is because she has in fact been running a smart campaign that constantly evolves to address and defuse criticisms that are made against her.

An example is the fact that she is a woman running for president. The general reasoning among those who are categorically against women running for office stems from their belief that women rely on their emotions and make decisions that may not necessary be logical. Of course, anyone who possesses even a small intellectual capacity understands that there is no scientific reasoning that can establish why a woman would empirically be less fit to lead. But when conservatives began to subtly line up those arguments against Hillary, she understood that the right way to defuse those allegations was not to cite scientific studies, but to begin projecting a strong and rational image that reflected who she really was. Watching only a few of Hillary's political speeches and public performances from the 1990s and comparing them with the image that she projects today makes that deliberate and precise metamorphosis very clear.

But she has recently embarked on a whole new set of changes to re-brand herself to attract more voters -- and it is working. Hilary is aware that a major poll recently demonstrated that her biggest demographic electoral challenge is white men in their late 50s and 60s who are uncomfortable with her as the president and only meager percentages of this group support her. In addition, recent assertions by Elizabeth Edwards that Hillary has been trying to act manly in order to come across as strong led the Clinton campaign to realize that they must re-brand her image to maintain and strengthen her appeal to both women and the men in their late 50s and 60s. The way to address both of these concerns was to accentuate Hillary's womanhood.

Shortly following Elizabeth Edwards's comments, Hillary appeared on the Senate floor to give a speech in a blouse that showed her cleavage for the first time in her public life. A simple look at the way in which she has so closely controlled her image and appearance in various venues shows that it is naïve to say that her revealing appearance was just a coincidence. She understood that dressing as such will remind voters that she is not just strong, but a strong woman. Following the "cleavage event," she has consistently appeared at various debates and forums in bright red or pink clothes -- a stark contrast to her regular black pantsuits prior to the raising of questions about her womanhood. She has been smiling more, showing more affection on the campaign trail, hugging more people following the debates, and for the first time on Monday, she promised AFL-CIO voters at the Chicago debate that if they are looking for someone to stand up to powerful corporations, "I'm your girl!" -- the kind of language that is often used as an expression of a sense of pride in being female and everything a woman is.

What all of these instances demonstrate is that Hillary is running a very intelligent campaign because she and her campaign staff are extremely astute political observers; they swiftly pick up the criticisms that they know may hurt her viability, and then instead of verbally refute criticisms, they re-brand her through a deliberate and consistent series of efforts and make it almost impossible for any criticism to remain relevant for longer than a few months.

She responded to criticism about her strength by developing a strong image over the past 10 years. She effectively diluted criticisms against her 2002 Iraq vote by leading the anti-war effort over the past few years, voting against the funding of troops in the recent vote and recently challenging the Pentagon to present Congress with plans for troops withdrawal. And she has succeeded once again to address another criticism -- this time about her womanhood -- by re-branding herself, emphasizing her pride in being a woman and accentuating her female traits. Her ability to defuse criticisms through adapting to the political landscape is arguably the most important factor that has kept her on the lead in the polls and made her the most viable candidate of either party.