Clinton packs Paramount, raises dough

Clinton packs Paramount, raises dough

The blonde from New York may not have understood her own true whereabouts on Sunday afternoon, standing in front of Sal’s on the Mall, but nevermind—she was assured in her opinion. “She really won the thing,” the visitor said of Hillary Clinton’s 75-minute fundraiser at the Paramount. And why had this investment banker traveled the 350 miles to see her Senator in a mildly scripted conversation with famous Democrat John Grisham, especially when Hillary had been on all five political talk shows that very same morning? “I wanted to see how she did in a red state.” Cue the map showing a blue oasis within the Republican Commonwealth, please.

Indefatigable, and with a pretty sweater, to boot: Hillary Clinton hit five Sunday morning political talk shows before making her way to the Paramount for a fundraiser with John Grisham, who asked her, among other things, if it was “kind of fun to be the only girl in the race."

Indeed, it came as no surprise that Charlottesville would yield a warm crowd for Hillary. People don’t pay up to $2,300 per ticket so they can heckle, particularly when the candidate leads the Democrats and the buzz is heavy on how Virginia is “winnable” in a general election given Kaine and Webb and now Warner’s chance to take the whole senatorial shooting match. When Hillary settled in next to Grisham, framed on stage by 52 big donors and student volunteers, she allowed as to how she won’t cede any part of these fine United States and before things got rolling the campaign’s senior spokesman said that Hillary “doesn’t want to wait” because “Virginia is a changing state.”

Yes, she’s not the official candidate yet, but that seemed like a technicality as she rolled through a greatest hits package of domestic and international talking points (ably aided in this by Grisham, who promised he would not, like Chris Matthews, “rudely interrupt” her, nor would he, like Larry King “fall asleep,” and neither would he, like Tim Russert, “remind her of things she said to the contrary 25 years ago”). Her topics? Among other things, education (“we have a teacher shortage because we have a respect shortage”); America’s global profile (“After I’m elected…I will send a very simple message: The era of cowboy diplomacy is over”); global warming; and, of course, health care. Hillary’s marathon session supporting her new health care plan earlier that day was already a centerpiece of online news analysis by afternoon (except apparently in The Washington Times, whose national political correspondent seated next to me downloaded and edited transcripts for the duration of the Paramount event), and she devoted the greatest chunk of time to her claim that “Americans want government to regulate the quality and cost of health care.”

But this was more than a fundraiser (estimated take: $200,000). It was an icebreaker, insofar as the former First Lady still has an image problem in some quarters. To wit, she seems chilly. Former Charlottesville mayor John Conover, for one, was satisfied: “I’d describe her as relaxed. People were wondering, does she have two feet and an ass?” Sherry Kraft, co-chair of the city’s Democratic Party, lauded the format for giving a glimpse of what Hillary is like “when she loosens up.”

For sure, Hillary ladled more than a few folkisms into her repurposed stump speech. Diplomacy, she said, sometimes seemed “slow as molasses moving uphill in the wintertime.” She told pitiful family stories about being a Chicago Cubs fan. And there was this one too: A yarn about how Arkansas-born Grisham was “like, 17th cousin twice removed” from her husband Bill, a discovery that was made shortly after that Clinton was elected to the White House. To which Grisham noted wryly—and with passing reference to his checkbook—that once you hit a certain level of success, “you have kin folk picking up everywhere."

For more information: The Charlottesville Podcasting Network has audio of Ms. Clinton’s interview at the Paramount.

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