Indiana and North Carolina (via metaphor)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I'm usually not a huge fan of sports metaphors. They're too common, too tortured, and too misapplied. But they work really well to explain the last 24 hours.

Until last night, Barack Obama had the look of a boxer who was ahead on the scorecards going into the final round (think Apollo Creed at the end of Rocky II). The only way Clinton could win the nomination was to knock him out. The way the delegate math works out, she needed a really strong showing to convince the superdelegates that she was worth another look. Simply winning the round wouldn't do; she needed to knock Obama down. So, the conventional wisdom was that Obama, knowing this, would simply play defense; he might lose the round, but would do so knowing that the scorer's table would give him the overall win. And in the last couple of a weeks, Clinton landed some nice shots.

But instead of covering up and cutting his losses, Obama came out swinging.

He took a HUGE gamble by fighting back on the gas tax issue. Think about it: can you think of a time when a candidate scored points by OPPOSING a tax cut directed at low- and middle-income voters? At a time when gas is averaging $5,728.99 per gallon, it takes some GIGANTIC cojones to come out against that proposal so loudly.

I'll admit, as a politico, I wouldn't have advised that he do so. Like a good cornerman, I would have advised that he 'stick and move', stay out of the corner, and wait for the end of the round. Traditionally, most candidates would have minimized the issue, changed the subject, or just taken the small hit. But Obama took a risk and threw a haymaker. And it landed.

Last night, Obama reminded me of Matt Damon's character in "Rounders" (if you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Nice poker flick from before the World Series of Poker was on ESPN). After a rough history playing hold-'em against a Russian mobster (played hilariously by John Malkovich), Damon eventually regains his stride and declares that he'll keep playing if Malkovich for any length of time, cause he (Damon) could "keep tearing him up all night long".

I think the Obama campaign has regained their belief that he can go toe-to-toe with Clinton on any turf. He'll win the nomination because of his lead and the remaining math, but that isn't the only reason. If there were 10, or 20, or 1000 more contests, they probably feel that it wouldn't matter, because he can beat her outright. He (and his campaign, and his supporters) may be regaining the swagger they had in February when they won 13 straight primaries and grabbed the electorate by the gonads.

So, based on last night, Obama has picked up a first down, and Clinton is out of time-outs (or is it times-out? I never know). She can't stop the clock, so barring a Miracle-at-the-Meadowlands-type finish, all he has to do is take a knee and run out the clock. The big remaining question is whether she will take a couple of cheap shots at his knees on those kneel-downs. She can't change the final outcome, but she can certainly cause some damage for him in the next round.


Bob "Chief Beer Advocate" 9:02 AM  

I was hoping for some B Mac primary commentary.

Rickey Henderson 3:29 PM  

"Obama has picked up a first down, and Clinton is out of time-outs"

You'd think that, but her campaign keeps on finding new and creative ways to move the goal posts further down the field.

Alright, no more football metahpors for Rickey.

Bob "Chief Beer Advocate" 4:03 PM  

She hasn't actually moved the goal post down the field, she has just managed to convince the media that she has...until now.

The unbelievable thing is that she is still at it today, cutting down Obama and race-baiting.

Somebody shut her up.

steves 6:32 AM  

If there were 10, or 20, or 1000 more contests, they probably feel that it wouldn't matter, because he can beat her outright.

I disagree. I think if this were dragged out longer it would be much closer. Obama peaked early when he had to, but the Clinton Machine(tm) fought back. I wonder what else she might have been able to throw at him.

B Mac 9:47 AM  

Steve, I completely agree. And if The Clintons were to start over from Day 1, I think Hillary would hae a solid shot at winning. He built his lead with a string of wins after Super Tuesday, and did so because his campaign planned ahead. Hers didn't.

But with that said, it isn't as if he built his lead, and then held on for dear life as she thrashed him around the country. Her "comeback" hasn't really existed; he's basically split things (popular vote, delegates, etc.) evenly since before Texas & Ohio. He isn't just holding on to the math; he's still performing well.

Andy 7:46 AM  

I think B Mac is completely right. Hillary got desperate and pandered to the masses. The gas tax holiday sounds great, but really does nothing but destroy roads (and schools here in Michigan).

Obama could have backed away and either agreed (as McCain did) or ignored. Instead, he said that it didn't make any sense and said that we need real solutions.

I was impressed and think he took 2 steps forward as a leader.

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