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April 18, 2014 12:51 PM Is “Nana Factor” Big For HRC?

By Ed Kilgore

Per TPM’s Tom Kludt, on MNBC’s Morning Joe today, New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin thinks Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy could be a “game-changer,” in a positive way, for her mother’s likely 2016 presidential campaign.

Sorkin didn’t much convince his fellow panelists.

Maybe he should have read and cited Haley Sweetland Edwards’ essay about the Nana Factor for HRC in the current issue of the Washington Monthly:

For years, she’s been hamstrung by schizophrenic reviews from those she needs to win over. On one hand, people seem to agree that she is by nearly all counts the logical, most electable candidate on the blue team. In nearly all polls over the last four years, Democratic voters have found her competent, strong, intelligent, and imminently electable. But on the other hand, when it comes down to measuring that slippery je ne sais quoi of a candidate’s likability, there’s something about the lady that makes many in the Democratic base just sort of squinch up their face. (You know the look: “It’s not that I don’t like her; it’s just that …”) To many liberals, the allegation is often that she’s too shrewdly ambitious, too obviously the product of the steely, well-oiled Clintonland political machine. (In the lead-up to the 2008 election, liberal editor Robert Kuttner worried that “everything she does seems calculating, poll-tested, and money-driven.”) To many moderates, she’s just plain dull.
Becoming a grandmother could help remedy both those problems. It could allow her, for example, to simply become more human at the podium. She could suddenly be in a position to crack jokes about tripping over baby toys, or tell a funny story about the little one waking up and crying all night, or barfing on her aide (babies are so great!). And this shift in persona won’t all be off the cuff. If Hillary becomes a grandmother, her speechwriters will also suddenly have a supply of rich personal material—anecdotes, observations, feelings—that they can use to connect the candidate to the policies she has long championed, from pre-K education to family leave to the plight of girls in the developing world. For moderates, this will help her seem less dull, and for liberals, it will help her cut through their suspicions that, as one cynical Democrat put it to me, she’s just “saying things to check off the box for the single-mother vote.”

Check out the whole piece and judge for yourself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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