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ride (on) the coattails of (someone)
To benefit from someone else's success; to use someone else's success as a means to achieve one's own. Everyone knows you've been riding on the coattails of the governor these last two years, but once her term ends, you'll be on your own! Jonathan rode the coattails of his professor to get some recognition for his own work in several esteemed academic journals.
ride on someone's coattailsand hang on someone's coattails
Fig. to make one's good fortune or success on the strength of someone else's. (Also with else, as in the examples.) Bill isn't very creative, so he rides on John's coattails. Some people just have to hang on somebody else's coattails.
ride somebody's coattailsalso ride the coattails of somebody
to use your connection with someone successful to achieve success yourself I don't think she would get promoted without riding her boss's coattails. My opponent is riding the coattails of the popular governor of Massachusetts.
on someone's coattails
Also, on the coattails of. Owing to another person's popularity or merits. For example, He won the cabinet post by hanging on the senator's coattails, or He was elected to office on the coattails of the governor. This expression, with its graphic image, dates from the mid-1800s, when coats with tails were in fashion.
See also: coattail
on the coattails of
1. As a result of the success of another: elected to office on the coattails of a popular governor.
2. Immediately following or as a direct result of: resigned on the coattails of the scandal.