Clinton cracks the jokes on her 'Hil Force One' plane

First she was formidable. Then she was emotional. Now, in her pursuit of the presidency, Hillary Clinton has donned another persona – the goofy, knock-about, campaign plane joker.

"My name is Hillary, and I'm so pleased to have most of you on board," she announced over her new campaign plane's public-address system as it took off from Las Vegas on a short hop to Reno, Nevada – to the amazement of the journalists huddled uncertainly at the back.

"Things can get awfully bumpy when you least expect it," she continued. "In the event of an unexpected drop in poll numbers, this plane will be diverted to New Hampshire."

And so the carefully scripted jokes rolled for several minutes. It was a marked departure for the former first lady, who has liked the press so little that, until now, she has preferred to travel on a separate plane.

Buttering them up with jokes is just part of a new strategy to humanise herself as a candidate, something that appeared to make a difference between the Iowa caucus, where she came third, and the New Hampshire primary, which she won, defying predictions.

She's been giving many more interviews and ad hoc news briefings. On Wednesday, though, she went one step further, unveiling a Boeing 737 campaign plane for the press and her staff that she nicknamed "Hil Force One".

"We know you have choices when you fly," she cracked, "so we are grateful you chose the plane with the most experienced candidate."

Hillary's flight-attendant routine may not have been devastating in its originality – Hollywood's comedy writers are on strike after all – but it garnered plenty of attention from embattled campaign reporters who, at this stage of the proceedings, are gagging with boredom after hearing stump speeches of their candidates a zillion times and welcome any glimmer of something new or different.

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