Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Beware the Underdog

Posted in Barack Obama by allisonkilkenny on February 21, 2008

Like some kind of Change-fueled locomotive, Barack “Bringin’ the Hope” Obama has surged past his presidential competitor, Hillary Clinton, in the delegate count.

However, it seems like Hillary only grows stronger whenever she’s knocked down. We need only think back to one wintry eve in New Hampshire when the lady Clinton was left behind, her campaign all but dead coming out of Iowa. She’s out. Everyone thought it, and many pundits explicitly said it.

Well, they were wrong. It’s hard to kill a Clinton campaign, and it’s a grave miscalculation to underestimate one. When Hillary Clinton cried in New Hampshire, what happened was more than the media’s unfair emphasis on gender roles and issues of “sensitivity.” She became the underdog, and if there’s one thing women don’t like to see, it’s two men bullying a woman. Suddenly, Hillary was the victim of the Establishment: two big, bad men, who were bossing her around.

Obama was wise to duck the crossfire when Edwards unleashed on Clinton multiple times during debates. Instead of looking tough, Edwards looked unnecessarily cruel, at least to New Hampshire-area women, who arrived in droves at the polls, perhaps voting for Hillary’s agenda, but also against the establishment that has exploited women for so long.

Now, Obama has surged to the front of the pack. In theory, this is a good thing, unless, of course, we pause to consider that Obama’s entire campaign has centered around the “Yes We Can” populist message of a lone maverick pushing against the winds of the status quo. If Obama becomes the Big Man, then he may begin to represent the very establishment he’s promised to change.

Obama’s presence must be especially painful for Bill Clinton, once dubbed the “Comeback Kid.” Like Clinton, Obama has sustained himself on the appearance of being at a great disadvantage in the world of politics. During his own presidential run, Clinton got housed in Iowa, but he later finished second in New Hampshire, which earned him his folksy title. So no one loves the position of underdog more than Bill Clinton, who has gone to excruciating lengths to paint Hillary in the same hue, saying she has “basically been running as the underdog ever since Iowa.”

Underdog is a great place to be. The media attention has eased off of Hillary a little bit. In fact, McCain has officially shifted his focus to Obama like the Eye of Sauron leveling poor little Frodo.

Bill realizes the power of Underdog, and so does Obama. The underdog gets to duck the shit storm. They get to act offensively rather than defensively in the hopes of effectively striking at the exact right moment. Then, while everyone else is scrambling to pick up the pieces, they can leap ahead, and strive to stay ahead, until the election in November.

Obama has that momentum, but now he’s firmly in the limelight as the leader. Can he sustain the oncoming scrutiny? Hillary is sitting pretty in her new position of underdog, but she’s walking a dangerous line. She must exploit her role just enough without plunging into the abyss and losing the remaining primaries.

Whether she gets that juggling act right, only time will tell, but don’t count the lady out just yet.

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