This is all such crap.
HRC did not play any god-damned gender card. She withstood a unrelenting attack from everyone on stage at Drexel and came out of it strongly, though not spectacularly. She then made a joke at her alma mater about being well prepared by Wellesley for competing equally in a "boy's club", which was no more than the truth. It was other people, specifically female bloggers, who first said that the spectacle of eight men all going after a single woman made for very uncomfortable dynamics.
That's true, too.
There's certainly an intellectual level on which the frontrunner is going to get pushed harder, but this was out of proportion to anything we have seen to date in either the Republican or Democratic debates. At a visceral level, well, it was eight guys trying to shove a woman around. Sorry, that's the psychological impact of that much hostility and fury from a pack of males aimed at a solitary female. They overplayed the "Everyone Hates Hillary" card, and now they are claiming victimhood because viewers, particularly female viewers, did not care for what they saw.
As it turns out, as the days go by, it is becoming apparent that Hillary's answers were A) pretty good and B) not significantly different than what Edwards or Obama have said. For anyone with some time to kill, here is an interview George Stephanopolous did with John Edwards today, in which he calmly asks Edwards to provide proof for his allegations that HRC is lying or waffling or whatever: Web clip, runs for almost an hour.
Here is what is happening in this campaign, something Kevin Drum pointed out a year ago - HRC's opponents (Dem. and Rep.) have one basic argument - Oh, look, it's icky Hillary! She's mean and ugly and shrill and she lies and she's Republican lite/the reincarnation of FDR. Run away! Run away!
But a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable downfall of Hillary. People who hadn't paid much attention to HRC before or who had not thought her a viable candidate (Remember that I once was an Edwards supporter...) listened to what she had to say and watched how she carried herself when faced with challenges, and said "Wait a minute. The dame's good." She acts presidential at all times, even now when little Johnnie and little Barry are telling anyone who will listen how *awful* she is, and doesn't stoop to gutter tactics.
HRC comes across as sane, solid, moderate and reliable. Her domestic positions are firmly rooted on the left, and her foreign policy is unsentimental, conceding nothing to whackos but offering a clear basic policy for anyone who wants to deal. She appeals to the vast bulk of voters who are not ideological and sit in a muddled center, and are looking for a *type* of person more than for someone with specific policies.
Thus, when the guys trot out the "It's the Hillary monster!" emotional rhetoric, smearing her character and alleging skullduggery of some undefined kind (Aside - Am I the only one who is reminded of the witch scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when this kind of stuff kicks in? Didn't think so...), the viewers are increasingly going "Huh? I don't see that."
The lesson of this week is you can't play the Hillary card and win.