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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, August 24, 2006


the case for Edwards

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, August 24, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Chuck Todd at the National Journal talks about Edwards 2008. He points out that the new primary schedule actually favors Edwards over Clinton:

In many ways, this Democratic calendar reminds me of the NCAA basketball tournament which, while exciting, rarely crowns the country's best team as its champ, just the hottest.

Think of this primary calendar schedule as a "draw" and then match up the candidates best positioned to run the table in those states.

Suddenly, you come up with another front-runner with Clinton: and his name isn't Mark Warner or Evan Bayh or John Kerry. It's John Edwards.

Organizationally, Edwards is in the best shape of anyone in Iowa. His close ties to the hotel labor workers give him an interesting leg up in Nevada. South Carolina is a primary he's already won once. About the only state where Edwards is weak is New Hampshire. And, frankly, if he wins Iowa and Nevada, New Hampshire support will gravitate to him. He's planted plenty of support seeds in the state, but he's just never been anyone's 1st or 2nd choice.

But let's forget geography for a minute and look at who is best positioned on the two biggest issues Democrats will debate between now and 2008 -- Iraq and electability. Edwards has become an unabashed opponent of the war and liberal activists in Iowa will remember that. That should play well in New Hampshire as well. He's also heavily courting labor and someday labor is going to matter again in a Democratic primary; at least that's what labor keeps telling itself. But the combination of labor and Iraq positions Edwards very neatly to Clinton's left, where she'll leave a vacuum since she's trying so hard right now to make herself electable in a general.

As for electability, Edwards should be considered too liberal to win a general. Then again, there's something about a southern accent which sends voters a moderate message. And that's always served Edwards well. Democratic primary voters are very much like Republican primary voters; they don't nominate the most electable, they nominate the most electable liberal (Republicans usually find the most electable conservative).

There's some irony in the DNC's calendar compromise which ended up favoring one candidate over every other (in this case Edwards) -- it's that he doesn't have a lot of defenders/diehards looking out for him in the Democratic Party inner-circle. This calendar order came together because of individual power centers each early state had (or didn't have). South Carolina had Don and Carol Khare Fowler and Nevada had Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D). Clinton's folks tried (and failed) to shift the Southern primary away from South Carolina to Alabama.

Of course, the real test of the law of unintended consequences will be in about 18 months when we look back and realize that "so-and-so" won or lost because of something in this calendar configuration that we hadn't realized. But from what we know now, this new calendar is a clear advantage for Edwards and a taller hurdle for Clinton.

There's a lot to like about Edwards. He's got the charisma and the empathy down, of course. But he also has a lot more depth than most realize. During the 2004 campaign he was the only candidate who had devoted any effort to poverty. He was the sole primary candidate who didn't try to tear Dean down. During the campaign as veep nominee, he worked his rear end off in the heartland, doing the small town stops and interacting directly with the people, and this is probably the main reason that the margin was so close.

Unless Gore enters the race, Edwards is more likely to be the anti-Hillary than Warner. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards in the veep slot regardless.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.