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Hillary Chokes Back Tears, Wins (my) Respect

Ben Smith has a poignant nugget from the campaign trail this morning--it involves Hillary on the verge of tears at an event in Portsmouth. Ben writes:

The question was inoccuous:

"As a woman I know it’s hard to get out of the house and get ready," asked Marianne Pernold, a local freelance photographer. "Who does your hair?"

Clinton began by talking about her hair -- she has some help -- but moved to talk more generally about the campaign.

"It’s not easy, it’s not easy, and I couldn’t do it if i just didn’t passionately belive it was the right thing to do," she said.

"I have so many oppporuntities for this country. I don’t want to se us all fall back," she said, her voice breaking in the last phrase.

"This is very personal for me," she said to supportive applause from the small gathering, at which she'd been discussing policy around a table for an hour. "It’s not just political, it's not just public -- I see what's happening. We have to reverse it."

"Some people think elections are a game -- it’s about who’s up and who's down," she said. "It's about our country's future, it's about our kids' future - it's really about all of us together."

"And some of us put oursevles out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds, and we do it each one of us because we care about our country," she said.

"Some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what are going to do on day one, and some of us haven’t thought that through enough," she said.

"When we look at the array of problems that we have, and the potential for it really spinning out of control -- this is one of the most important elections America's ever faced," she concluded.

The questioner, Pernold, said she'd come to the event "smitten" by Obama, but that she's now torn. "Showing that emotion -- I really find it refreshing," she said.

I agree with Pernold--it is refreshing. Watching the public beating she's taken over the last several days, I kept thinking I'd have a hard time not bawling in public if I were her. I'm not being snide here--I'm honestly impressed and amazed that she's managed to stay so poised, but it's also heartening to know that she's a human who takes these things personally, because running for president should be very personal.

Reports of tears were obviously pretty devastating to Ed Muskie in 1972, but we've come along way since then, and no one question's Hillary's toughness. This won't hurt her a bit.

Update: A couple of commenters have pointed out that the moment would have been more affecting had Hillary not pivoted to her anti-Obama talking points. I agree--it did step on the humanity of the moment. On the other hand, I saw it as a way for her to kind of recover her composure--retreat to something familiar, something you know you can say without cracking again. (Now you could ask how it reflects on Hillary that she feels instinctively comfortable taking a shot at an opponent. But that's a separate debate...)

--Noam Scheiber