How voters interpret Sen. Hillary Clinton's composure — emotional, cold or just plain tough — could be a deciding factor in her campaign for the presidency, political analysts told ABCNEWS.com.
Earlier today at a campaign event in New Hampshire, Clinton's voice broke and her eyes welled up with tears as she spoke to 16 undecided voters about her passion for the election as well as for the country.
The New York senator was taking questions from a primarily female group at Cafe Expresso in Portsmouth, when she choked up responding to one woman's question about how she stays "upbeat and so wonderful"?
"It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do," said Clinton, getting visibly emotional. "You know, I have so many opportunities from this country I just don't want to see us fall backwards."
"You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political, it's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it," she added, with her voice breaking and eyes growing teary.
And during Saturday's New Hampshire debates, Clinton became noticeably agitated as she responded to a statement made by former Sen. John Edwards, in which he defended Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's pledge for change and suggested Clinton was the candidate for the status quo.
"Making change is not about what you believe or about making a speech, it's about working hard," Clinton said after Edward's statement, in which he said, "Anytime you speak out for change, this is what happens. The forces for status quo are going to attack."
Then, a little bit louder, she said, "I want to make change, but I've already made change. I'm not running on a promise of change. But on 35 years of change. … We don't need to raise false hopes of people in our country about what can be delivered."
"I think that having a first woman president is a huge change," said Clinton, raising her voice.
In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" today, Clinton defended her reaction in the New Hampshire debate.
"As you can tell from that, I'm passionate about change," Clinton said after rewatching the clip from the event.
But whether Clinton has appeared too emotional, too sensitive or too weak in her recent public appearances is still up for debate.
"I think outburst is an overstatement," said Howard Gold, professor of government at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., of Clinton's debate performance in New Hampshire. "Nevertheless, it was a strong reaction. But when I think of an outburst I think of Howard Dean screaming, and this isn't in the same category."
"I think it was pretty normal, because to be identified as a candidate of the status quo is a recipe for disaster," added Gold. "She had to — and I think did — respond forcefully."
But there is a line for a female candidate when it comes to speaking forcefully and appearing too "shrill," said Diana Owen, an associate professor of political science and the chair of American studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
"It's very hard to find the balance between appearing strong and tough and caring and engaged and then crossing your line to where you'll be labeled shrill and bitchy," said Owen. "As far as being a female candidate, she's open to different descriptive adjectives — things like melting down or being too emotional — that you would not hear as much in terms of male candidates."