(CNN) - A good assessment of how a candidate successfully takes a message and makes a mark on voters is when you begin to hear them repeat it over and over in calls, e-mails and on radio talk shows.
After getting dusted by Sen. Barack Obama in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton knew that she needed to change her position to combat the agent of change language presented by Obama. It was clear that just talking about her experience as First Lady wasn’t enough, because taking credit for all the good done by the administration of President Bill Clinton also meant assuming the bad.
But what Clinton has done is reframe her experience by expanding it beyond the eight years she’s served in the U.S. Senate. Now, you hear her talk about having 35 years of experience as a change agent.
The key part really isn’t being an advocate for change, but the emphasis on 35 years.
And it has caught on because I’ve noticed the phrase taking foot among the electorate, and they are now repeating it.
Judging by her resume, the 60-year-old Clinton has decided to reach back and suggest that all that the work she has done since graduating from college matters. The compare and contrast is that with Obama being 46, Clinton is suggesting that she has been working on issues since her chief rival was still in junior high school.
The biggest knock on his campaign has been Clinton defining him as being inexperienced, even though it is true that he’s served longer as an elected official (11 years) than Clinton (eight).
The Obama campaign has failed to adequately respond to this change in Clinton tactics, and if they don’t, they will pay for it - because for the most part, the rest of the states will require getting traditional Democratic voters out to the polls.
One way for them to do so is to stop having Obama just say he worked as a community organizer. But what does that really mean?
He has to paint the picture of going into the public housing complexes of Chicago, helping people get needed services. He must say that he drove a beat up car to the West Side and South Side to sign people up to vote. He must say that his experience in the streets – laid out as explicit as possible – is the kind of experience that he will reflect on and use when sitting in the Oval Office.
Obama’s weakness is among low to middle-income voters. Speaking about this experience can help him identify with these voters.
But as of now, Clinton is winning the experience battle by changing the definition.
- CNN Analyst Roland Martin