Americans love an underdog. They loved Rocky so much they had him boxing well into middle age. Seabiscuit gave the public something to cheer about during the Great Depression. And Jim Valvano’s ’83 “Cardiac Pack” thrilled fans far beyond the Triangle.

In the world of politics, you can add Wendy Davis to the list. Heavily outnumbered, the Texas state senator took on her Republican colleagues and successfully blocked draconian anti-choice legislation. The GOP may yet pass the legislation but Davis’ filibuster fired up activists across the country and further defined the GOP as the party at odds with women’s health.

It’s a tale that shares a storyline with Moral Monday demonstrators in North Carolina. In both instances, the seemingly powerless take on an entrenched power elite of predominantly white men. Their methods are unconventional but, in both instances, they’ve captured the imagination of progressives in states where victories are few and far between.

The trick will be to maintain the momentum. In North Carolina, Moral Monday leaders will need to find a way to keep their supporters engaged when the legislature goes home in the next few weeks. In Texas, a state that is becoming more Democratic, the next question is whether Davis makes a bid for Governor in 2014. A draft Wendy movement is sure to pop up, if it’s not already out there before this blog is posted.

The 2014 election is a lifetime away. A lot can happen to determine the political environment but in off-year, low-turnout elections, momentum and enthusiasm count. Wendy Davis and the Moral Monday movement set up an underdog-hero-vs-villain dynamic that motivates the base and offers a clear contrast for less informed swing voters. Let’s see if it holds.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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