Hillary Clinton, Underdog?

Following a split decision on Super Tuesday, the Clinton campaign appears to be trying to cast itself as the underdog for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, Clinton strategist Mark Penn repeatedly called Barack Obama the "establishment" candidate. Not long after, Obama said that thanks to the Clinton "political machine honed over two decades," it is Clinton who should be considered the post-Super Tuesday frontrunner. "Two weeks ago we were a big underdog," Obama said. "Now we are a slight underdog."

There is also word from the Clinton campaign that Hillary Clinton is considering self-financing her campaign.* It's another piece of news that seems designed to shape the post-Super Tuesday media narrative. Frontrunners and establishment candidates generally don't need to pump their own money into their campaign, after all.

Why would Clinton, who was long seen as the inevitable Democratic nominee, want to claim the underdog mantle? It could have something to do with the fact that the votes to be held over the next couple of weeks, in states including D.C. and Hawaii, favor Obama.

If Clinton the "underdog" loses those races, it's a lesser blow than if Clinton the "frontrunner" does. The Clinton campaign is better positioned for the March contests, in which voters in states including Ohio and Texas go to the polls.

Clinton may address these questions at her 4 pm press conference in Arlington, VA today. One issue that could come up there are comments made by her husband Bill regarding self-financed campaigns back in December.

Discussing campaign finance reform, the former president noted that New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg could "spend a billion dollars and not miss it" on a presidential campaign.

Clinton then complained that the Supreme Court "seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us."

"For example, they say you couldn't stop me from spending all the money I've saved over the last five years on Hillary's campaign if I wanted to, even though it would clearly violate the spirit of campaign finance reform," he said.

*UPDATE: The Associated Press now confirms that Clinton "loaned her campaign $5 million late last month, at a time when she was struggling to keep up with Sen. Barack Obama's television advertising in Super Tuesday states."