As my friend and former Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber likes to say of politicians, it’s hard to be great until you lose.
Bill Clinton’s 1974 loss to Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt brought exposure to conservative voters in what was then Arkansas’ most Republican quadrant, helping Clinton hone a centrist message that got him elected statewide five times and win the White House in 1992.
George W. Bush narrowly lost a 1978 congressional race after his opponent, Kent Hance, castigated Bush for running an ad advertising a university campus campaign rally that Hance deemed an effort to “persuade young college students to support him by offering them free alcohol.”
Bush learned a life lesson about the political power of Christian conservatives.
Barack Obama got his head handed to him by Congressman Bobby Rush in a 2000 House primary. Rush framed the race as “the (Black) Panther against…