Inevitably, during a presidential campaign there is one moment that stands out and encapsulates the mood and the feel of the campaign. That defining moment for Hillary Clinton came two days ago in a small coffee shop in Portsmouth, N.H.
Clinton was running late and as the press stood waiting, along with the nearly 20 people who came to listen to Clinton, I struck up a conversation with Marianne Pernold Young, an undecided voter. She's a pleasant, slight woman with grey hair who told me she had been waiting for Clinton for nearly 2 hours. We chatted about New Hampshire and how we both enjoyed living in Washington, D.C. (Marianne had lived there several years ago).
When I asked her why she came to listen to Clinton speak, she said she was struggling to figure out who to vote for. I asked her what was the one thing she needed to hear from Clinton to get her to make up her mind.
She said "as a senior" the issue of Social Security and Medicare were important to her, but what she really wanted to know was how Clinton manages to keep up with such a grueling schedule - including how she keeps her hair looking so good.
I told Pernold Young that I often wonder the same thing - her schedule, that is - and I suggested that she ask Clinton the question. Marianne said she thought it was a silly question but I pointed out to her that most of the traveling press is about 20 to 30 years younger than Clinton and most of us struggle to keep up with the lack of sleep and long hours and often we wonder how Clinton does it. She laughed it off and went to chat with some of friends.
Soon after, Clinton entered Cafe Espresso, then sat down at a large table and began by thanking everyone who came to listen. As she spoke, reporters were getting antsy as Clinton fielded questions from the table but spouted off answers from her stump speech we've grown to know all too well. The first event of the day was starting to look like a newsless campaign stop and was quickly being written off by the press as a bust.
But, just as Clinton was wrapping up, Pernold Young grabbed the microphone and asked a simple question: "My question is very personal, how do you do it? "How do you, how do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?" she asked.
Clinton tried to respond by using humor saying, "You know, I think, well luckily, on special days I do have help. If you see me every day and if you look on some of the websites and listen to some of the commentators they always find me on the day I didn't have help. It's not easy."
But soon, Clinton could no longer hold in what many believe was an accumulation of daily stress and frustration from her big loss in Iowa only a few days before. Fighting back tears Clinton said, "It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know, I have so many opportunities from this country just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said. Clinton added, "Some people think elections are a game and they think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country. It's about our kids; futures. And it's really about all of us together."
The room fell silent as Clinton answered the question and tried to hold it together. Reporters rushed to get a better look and try to confirm if Clinton was infact getting choked up.
Following the event, reporters scurried to get reactions from the undecided voters, many of whom said that Clinton showed a human side many of them had never seen. I approached Pernold Young - who was being swarmed by the press following the event - and I reassured her that her question was in fact, a good one and she thanked me for encouraging her to ask it.
While "the tears" moment may very well turn out to be one of the most memorable political moments ever, it clearly affected the candidate much more than it affected the questioner.
Pernold Young told CBS station WBZ that even though she was moved by Clinton's answer, she still pulled the lever for Barack Obama in yesterday's primary.
"I took a walk on the beach and all I thought was how Obama made me feel and I thought about Hillary's response to me, and I thought she was a soft feminine woman for seven seconds," she told WBZ.
"When she turned, she adapted this political posture again, the stiffness and the rhetoric, and I said I really want to vote for Obama."