Not Ready To Rumble
Wisconsin ended it.
The pre-fight favorite never saw the punch, and while the latest bell saved her the knockdown, she had fallen far behind in points. Now, her corner worked feverishly to find an effective counter. These men, after all, were seasoned Cut Men and Strategists who knew how to stop the blood flow and turn a contest. They included the very commissioners that made the rules - and then ignored the rules. The ref wouldn’t flatten their chances – hubris would cause their demise.
The enigmatic Democratic Primary process was born from the ashes of 1968 Chicago. The young backroom doyens on the Hughes Commission (corner-men like Harold Ickes) set out to make it easier for alternative, under-funded candidates to go fist-to-fist against the establishment’s champion – a Bobby versus a Lyndon. Someday, a smart promoter might even choose a black or female to champion the cause. The new Commissioners wanted to smooth the way for future RFKs – challengers to the establishment who could save us from future social inequalities and Vietnams.
While the supporters of Hillary Clinton viewed their candidate as a victim of an unfair and dated nomination process, the Ickes fight plan had really just entered its High Renaissance. The irony is that the first bonafide challenger promoted by those now aging Bobby-Boomers turned out to be the established favorite, the power puncher and presumptuous champion. Clinton’s Braddock would predictably be a challenger with speed, cunning and style.
The Obama camp scouts knew that the Caucus States were left unprotected. If they could survive the early rounds, the middle rounds would be theirs. By the time the Clinton brain trust adjusted their style in San Antonio and Toledo, eleven rounds in a row had been conceded, culminating in the Wisconsin knockdown. Now, the big states were coming up – the ones with powerful Clinton machines and elected surrogates that had been poised for this moment for over two years. Getting through these states unscathed would be impossible for the lesser-known challenger and his corner knew it.
But three surprises were in store for the Clintons. The first surprise was the Internet and its capacity to size the ring in favor of the more technically adept candidate. Second was Barack Obama himself – an adversary that everyone noticed but few managed to see coming. The third surprise was the hubris of Senator Clinton’s inner circle. Their blindness to the first two surprises bordered on incompetence. By the time they reacted, their candidate had been out-pointed and the challenger still had enough legs to wobble through Pennsylvania on his feet.
If the Obama corner made any mistake it was underestimating its own potential in Texas where an outright win may have permanently knocked out the competition and avoided the extended rounds to come. But these would once again be critical rounds come November. While he needed to outspend Clinton in the latter Primaries, Obama needed to burn just enough cash to keep the numbers honest through Texas and Ohio, Pennsylvania and beyond. He utilized his ample resources and pre-earned breathing space to introduce himself to these Mega-States while preserving enough $40 dollar donations to help offset the RNC's historical funding advantage. The race had evolved into a primer for the Fall campaign. Barack Obama would get in some important sparing time - sharpening his skills and toughening his skin for the upcoming Championship versus McCain.
Unlike Dempsey versus Tunney, this Long Count had left the favorite on the floor and a tested Challenger was prepared for The Main Event to come.