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SCOT LEHIGH

Hillary Clinton on the move

Hillary Clinton smiled during the First in the Nation Primary Series Town Hall at White Mountain Community College in Berlin, N.H.
Hillary Clinton smiled during the First in the Nation Primary Series Town Hall at White Mountain Community College in Berlin, N.H.REUTERS

MANCHESTER, N.H.

Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire supporters are ecstatic.

Ecstatic about her debate performance, ecstatic that she won’t face Joe Biden, and ecstatic about the way she performed before the House Benghazi committee last week.

“She’s had the best two weeks that any political candidate could ever have,” exults state Senator Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester.

Certainly Clinton is on the move — on the move in ways that are, by turns, tactical and defensive, dubious and insinuating, substantive and smart.

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Let’s start with:

Autumn’s defensive tack to port In early October, Candidate Clinton announced her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that, at least in concept, Secretary of State Clinton had lauded. A full flip-flop, judged political truthdog Politifact. Add to that her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, announced in September, and the heliotropic hopeful has now shut down two possible avenues of attack from left-wing rival Bernie Sanders. With a nod to T.S. Eliot, she’s also engaged in:

A tedious argument of invidious intent That’s the post-debate decibel dart Clinton has tossed Sanders’ way. After pointed debate critiques of his heretofore weak gun-safety record, first by Martin O’Malley and then Clinton, Sanders retorted that “as a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton is that all the shouting in the world” won’t advance gun-violence solutions absent a consensus for action. Decrying shouting or hollering is a standard Sanders trope, but Clinton has treated it as symptomatic of sexism. “I’ve been told to stop, and I quote, ‘shouting’ about gun violence,” she has taken to saying. “Well, first of all, I’m not shouting. It’s just when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.” Yet when, on Wednesday, WMUR asked if she really thought Sanders was a sexist, Clinton wouldn’t own up to her insinuation. “I said what I had to say about it,” she replied.

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Now, I’m someone who admired the composed, matter-of-fact way Clinton handled herself during last week’s Benghazi witch hunt — excuse me, hearing — but this episode reminded me of some old rockers still at it after 40 years: Cheap Trick. Now for Clinton’s:

Move to monopolize the middle

Speaking Wednesday at a Politics & Eggs luncheon at Saint Anselm College, where she took questions from the audience but not the press, Clinton offered a balance of pro-worker and pro-small business measures. With combative Republicans on her right and a Democratic liberal crusader on her left, she portrayed herself as a leader who wants to work in a pragmatic, bipartisan fashion.

“At the end of the election we’re not Republicans or Democrats,” she said. “We’re Americans” — and Washington policy makers should roll up their sleeves and act that way.

But she also positioned herself as the defender of the Obama record and, more broadly, Democratic economic nostrums against the supply-side ideas that captivate the GOP field. Saying she supported “evidence-based policy making,” Clinton asserted that the economy does better under Democrats than Republicans and that “you are four times more likely to end up in a recession under a Republican president.” (Of the latter claim, Politifact says: Mostly true.)

Having narrowed Sanders’ range of attack, Clinton has clearly made a calculation that she can play nominee-to-be and focus on the GOP. Meanwhile, taking up the cudgel as defender of Democratic economics imparts some partisan edge and energy that her moderate presentation otherwise lacks.

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Right now, she’s on a roll. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that the smart, savvy Clinton has seemed to be in the catbird seat — only to be tripped up by her tone-deaf, entitled alter ego.


Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.