Keene, N.H. – according to Ex-C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame, Hillary Clinton is more than just a former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state. She drinks martinis. She knows how to laugh. And she has girlfriends.
“I asked a friend of hers, ‘OK, she seems swell, but does she have girlfriends?’” Plame said, looking out on a small circle of volunteers who had gathered in the Clinton campaign’s Keene headquarters for a lunchtime break from a day of canvassing and door-knocking. “I asked that question because I wanted to know the more human aspect to her. Frankly, she’s been our wallpaper for decades, and what tends to happen is that, after a while, a caricature forms.”
What Plame learned, from that friend and from her own longstanding relationship with the former first lady, is that Hillary Clinton does indeed have girlfriends. For Plame, that common humanity offered counterpoint to a public image defined by what even her supporters refer to as a “well-honed steeliness.”
Clinton campaigns staffers and supporters who had gathered in Keene on Saturday — including a contingent from the New Haven area — looked first to Hillary’s seasoned résumé when explaining their support for her presidential bid. Still, they almost always concluded their pitch with an enthusiastic reminder that she would, if elected, become the first female president of the United States.
For some, like Plame, Hillary’s identity as a woman simply represented a helpful bit of humanizing context. For others, like volunteer phone bank trainer Carol Clinton (no relation to the candidate), her candidate’s gender offered a potential political asset.
“This may be my own bias, but I also think that, in general, women tend to be better negotiators than men are,” said Clinton, talking through what might help her candidate achieve compromise in a political climate so hostile to bipartisanship. “Men get into power struggles, and I don’t think that happens quite as much with women. They’re much more willing to listen and see what we can work out.”
Out on the streets of Keene, New Haven volunteers Audrey Tyson, Idelier Pettigrew, and Valen Grandelski sought to win over prospective voters with arguments that held up Clinton’s foreign policy experience and “electability,” but were often underscored with a noted excitement about her being a woman.
“I could not overstate the importance of having a female president,” Grandelski said as she explained why she had devoted her weekend to traveling to New Hampshire and campaigning for Hillary.
Knocking on doors a few towns over in Marlboro, Morris Cove resident and CT Woman for Hillary co-chair Jacqueline Kozin sought a through line between Hillary’s history of support for women’s rights and the positive, inspirational impact that a woman in the White House would have on future generations. “I really believe in her support for women and working families,” she said. “I would also love to have a woman president in my lifetime. And I think for other young women to have that as a part of their lives would make a huge difference for women in the country.”
Back at the campaign headquarters in downtown Keene, another young, female volunteer was already finding inspiration in the prospect of Clinton’s election to the White House. “I’m really big on women’s rights,” said high school student Taylor Hafer, picking up a clipboard with rows of addresses she was about to visit to promote voting for Hillary Clinton in the February 9 New Hampshire Democratic primaries. “And I think seeing a woman in office would be such an important thing for so many young girls today. Yeah, I really support the idea of having a woman in office.”
Click on or download the audio above to listen to a sound collage of Clinton campaign volunteers, staffers, and other supporters from Keene, New Hampshire voicing their enthusiasm in trying to elect Hillary Clinton as the first female president of the United States.
Lucy Gellman contributed reporting.
Lucy Gellman and Thomas Breen are spending the week in New Hampshire with canvassers, campaign staffers and volunteers, and candidates. The above audio file is the first installment in a playlist of many voices from the road.