Obama should now campaign like the Goliath he is, not the David he was

By Jonathan Jacobson

When I rolled out of bed Tuesday morning, I thought by the time I tucked myself in that night I would have a better idea who was going to be America’s next president.

I anticipated resignation speeches, dirty accusations and, of course, tears. Man, did I want to see some tears.

But I could not possibly have been more wrong.

As I watched the race unfold, I realized that I would feel no sense of resolution. In its place, I would feel an absolute emptiness and the taut stomach muscles that accompany a new, looming battle.

John McCain, as many suspected, has all but locked up the nomination. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is already a mangled fly on the Arizona senator’s windshield, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

The real race, and the more remarkable one, is happening on the Democratic side and it is clear from Tuesday’s results that it has yet to begin.

Although Hillary Clinton is still ahead with about 80 more delegates overall, she could claim no decisive victory over Barack Obama on Tuesday. Neither walked away with one region of the country firmly in their grasp. Neither walked away with one group of people solidly in their pocket.

In truth, neither of these candidates has won much of anything yet.

The challenge now is for each of them to separate themselves as much as possible from McCain. And Obama is the Democratic candidate best poised to do this.

McCain and Clinton represent the old guard. Obama has the opportunity to separate himself from both of them, but he has to change his little-guy-versus-the-big-system image.

The Obama camp’s attitude is doing more harm than good. Tuesday night, David Axelrod, Obama’s top strategist, said that Obama is still very much the come-from-behind candidate.

“We’ve been the underdogs in this,” he insisted to Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC.

That is no longer what people need to hear – especially because it simply isn’t true. In fact, Obama has more states under his belt right now than Clinton. His campaign should start acting that way. They should be strutting, not sulking.

Instead, Obama told a story during his speech last night that suggested a setback in his efforts.

The Illinois senator reminded supporters of a time, long ago, when he was a community organizer in Chicago. We’ve heard it all before. But this particular story had a certain element of pathos, a rarity in any Obama speech.

He told the story of a failed community gathering. As the tale goes, Obama tried to comfort the frustrated volunteers, pointing out the window to some boys throwing stones at a boarded-up building across the street. Those boys, he told the audience last night, are the reason he has persevered all these years.

Although the story is classic Obama, the prevailing mood is not the right one to win over the fence-sitters. While this is intended to impart the idea that change doesn’t happen overnight, the timing and the underlying message imply that the campaign saw Tuesday as a disappointment.

It was not.

If anything, it was proof that Obama’s support is not confined to one specific area and that his message is growing and finding new audiences.

He is never going to have the air of inevitability around him that Clinton has been granted. But he is no longer the little guy.

He can distance himself from McCain and Clinton by showing that he is, in fact, bigger than them.

He can demonstrate that he raises more money faster, rings more doorbells and gathers more supporters than either of them. And he has already proven himself adept at all of these tasks.

If Sen. Obama expects to win the nomination, it’s time for him to start looking like it.

Jonathan is a senior in English and rhetoric, and he is for any candidate who will put a stop to the University’s Quantitative Reasoning requirements.