Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts

Grandmothers Know Best

Hillary Rodham Clinton has played many roles in her 67 years: first lady and Secretary of State, senator and presidential candidate. All those titles have one thing in common: They are intensely political and largely partisan.

One identity Clinton recently acquired is very different from all the others: Grandmother. That title transcends politics. It's about personal relationships, not professional ones. It's about the real you, not the image crafted by your media consultant.

As Clinton clearly knows, however, being a grandmother has enormous political implications. That's why she recently tweeted an endorsement of childhood vaccinations with the hashtag "#GrandmothersKnowBest."

Since we are blessed with six grandkids of our own, we admit to being prejudiced here. We know full well what Clinton means when she describes her "grandmother glow." We agree with her adage that age and experience provide a perspective that youth can never duplicate.

But the practical implications of her new role go far beyond gauzy sentiment. There are 70 million grandparents in this country -- a pretty formidable voting bloc, and one that Democrats have struggled to attract. In 2012, Barack Obama won only 44 percent of voters over 65. Grandma Hillary should have a better shot.

Remember, too, a key word in her hashtag: "mother." She didn't use "#GrandparentsKnowBest," after all. And Democrats simply cannot win the presidency without a large advantage among women voters.

It's also instructive that she used the hashtag to weigh in on vaccinations. She'll probably use it again on a range of issues relating to child welfare that Obama has already signaled will be part of the 2016 campaign: increased tax credits for parents, more pre-K education and better family leave policies.

The importance of Granny Power goes far beyond age and gender. Hillary lost to Obama for many reasons, but one of the most important is this: She failed to connect with voters on a human, personal level.

We've covered a dozen presidential elections and talked to countless voters, and they almost never say, "I just voted for someone based on his 16-point program on climate change."

To most voters, personal qualities are far more important than policy positions. What they do say is, "I like him, he understands me, he knows what my life is like."

The best way to convey those qualities is through stories. Obama was far better than Clinton at doing that, and his favorite tales are now so familiar we can all recite them. The grandmother who hit a glass ceiling at her bank; the mother who struggled with paying her medical bills; the father-in-law who hobbled on two canes every day to reach his job.

We know about the student loans the young Obamas had to pay off. We can describe the car he drove on their first date that was so old the floorboards were rusted through.

All of these stories carry one message: I've endured the same pains and pressures that you have. I'm just like you.

Clinton has struggled to find the language that conveys that level of personal empathy. One of her few attempts to do so in 2008 -- she liked to say "I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America" -- never really connected.

"As we saw in 2008, she had a more difficult time relating to voters on a personal level," Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, told Time. "(Telling) stories about having a first grandchild might serve as one way to connect with the millions of Americans who watched Chelsea grow up, and who are now grandparents themselves."

Baby Charlotte is not Clinton's only female relative we'll hear more about. There's her late mother, Dorothy, who grew up in an abusive household and left home at 14 to support herself as a nanny. It's the kind of story about grit and determination and overcoming adversity that touches a resonant chord in American mythology.

Sure, there are risks here. In our youth-obsessed culture, age is not always an asset. Ask Bob Dole and John McCain, who ran for president in their 70s and lost to much younger opponents.

And there is still a double standard when it comes to gender. Women have to prove their toughness in ways men never do. Being Grandmother-in-Chief doesn't automatically qualify you to be Commander-in-Chief.

But in the end, Hillary Clinton has to embrace who she is: a woman with the wounds and wisdom that come with age.

And after all, she's right. Grandmothers do know best.

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