The Downside of Charisma
I n a kinder, gentler world, nobody would have had to remind Bill Clinton to smile. He had come rocking and rolling into the industrial north, the battleground where, according to his original plan, he was supposed to lock up the nomination. The alignment of the planets looked favorable, at least to the naked eye. Stan Greenberg's first polling report gave Clinton "manageable" six -- and seven-point leads in the twin primaries in Michigan and Illinois the following week, and that was just for starters; his margins in both states would widen quickly into double digits as the dimension of his victories on Super Tuesday sank in.
And who was left to stop him? His last remaining rivals were Paul Tsongas, who was already being written out of the race, and Jerry Brown, who had never been seriously counted in it; the Clinton team was only just beginning to appreciate the danger posed by a man who had a microphone and a cause and didn't give a damn what he said. There was no one else, in the field or behind the tree line. The dread at national Democratic headquarters over Clinton's march toward the nomination was giving way to a kind of cheerless resignation to it; the party and its nervous candidates would have to live with him at the head of the ticket, like it or not.
And yet the Little Rock command group was in an oddly edgy state as they decamped to Chicago and set up their northern command post in a suite at the Palmer House Hilton. On the one hand, Greenberg's confidential report on his Illinois polling showed "the seeds of a much more positive image" for Clinton, a tingle of newness and excitement about him that reminded people of John Kennedy. On the other, two voters in three harbored serious questions about his authenticity -- whether he wasn't quite literally too good to be believed. "Slick and smooth is the downside of charisma," Greenberg wrote, putting the best face he could on his findings. "It is troubling, to be sure, but it can be turned into a positive."
Not all his colleagues were quite so sanguine; it was plain that