- - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Votes are stubborn little things. Votes have none of the sparkle and shine of some of the campaign rhetoric. Votes don’t soar, they sink in. Votes are precious and deeply felt by the man and woman who casts one, but the candidates stop catering to votes as soon as they’re cast.

Iowa is yesterday’s news, and what we see when we look back to the place where the tall corn grows, and look through the rear-view media mirror, is Cinderella among the cinders. The post-mortems on polling will embarrass some of the pollsters for a day or two, but they’ll fall into the memory hole quickly. There’s always next year.

Donald Trump was humbled, even gracious, in thanking Iowans for second place, a place he hates, and his customary bravado was gone on the morning after. He’s a fugitive balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, leaking every so slowly. The balloon will stay up for a while, but it will never quite bounce and float like it once did. He told Iowans he loves Iowa so much he might buy a farm in the neighborhood, but no one expects him to really care much about them unless he returns as the Republican nominee.

Ted Cruz, the Iowa winner, confronts headwinds blowing wilder in New Hampshire. His evangelical message doesn’t “resonate” among the toughened New Englanders, who are more secularized in their attitudes toward the universe. (And it doesn’t thrill a lot of church folks to see their faith reduced to a stump speech, either.) New Hampshire voters prefer the road that may not be “less traveled,” as Robert Frost would describe it, but one that’s a different pathway to the top.

The Donald clearly remains the statistical favorite in New Hampshire, but his bombs bursting in air scatter sparks with diminished power after Iowa. There was only a point separating him from third place and Marco Rubio. The trophy for silver, unlike gold, requires polish to keep it shining.

Chris Christie calls Mr. Rubio “the boy in the bubble,” but he’s the candidate who emphasizes and epitomizes the American Dream, the haunting presence in every Hillary nightmare. He could cut into the youth vote she’s already struggling with and drain the Hispanic votes she’s counting on, beginning with the 29 electoral votes in Florida. She needs Hispanic help with her continuing “woman problem.” Feminism is more complicated than it used to be, and it’s not just with the young millennial feminists who can’t relate to her. There’s fatigue among her oldest supporters, too, those on the ramparts since the second-stage feminism of the 1960s set the direction for the newly empowered women of her generation. Some of these thoughtful feminists understand that making Hillary the first woman president is actually a goal smacking loudest of sexism.

“There is nothing more sexist than wanting Hillary Clinton as president because she’s a woman,” writes Gail Sheehy in The New York Times. This is the opinion she found on an ocean cruise organized by the Nation magazine, the hoary liberal magazine. Seventy percent of the passengers she encountered were for Bernie Sanders and a third perceived Hillary as something close to evil incarnate. In interviews with more than 50 women of boomer age, Miss Sheehy got a lasting impression of ambivalence toward Hillary.

She hardly helped herself when she tried to defend herself as an outsider, the flavor of this campaign cycle, asking, “Who can be more of an outsider than a woman president?” Gender politics or not, such talk is patronizing to women, pandering from a Clinton whose cozy Wall Street connections have padded her pockets with millions of dollars from the proceeds of her speeches. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and distaff politics makes even stranger feministas. For women who share pride in the belief, still widely held, that women are more nurturing than men, Hillary destroys that illusion.

“A lot of women vote from a compassionate, nurturing place,” says the organizer of an influential political forum in New York, “and those are not qualities you feel from her.”

Eight years ago, Hillary ran a campaign emphasizing that she was as tough as any man. This year she’s getting an unwanted opportunity to prove it. Bernie Sanders won’t touch her email controversy, but Marco Rubio says it disqualifies her: “Someone who cannot handle intelligence information appropriately, cannot be commander in chief.”

New Hampshire polls suggest that only Marco Rubio can defeat Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup. His hopeful, optimistic message appeals to someone looking for a fresh face. He can expect to be hit by everything short of sticks and stones this week. He’s the one Hillary is watching most closely — when she’s not casting a frightened eye on Bernie Sanders.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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