Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 3, 2003
POLITICS: Pretty Boy Edwards
Instapundit, among others, has been running an extensive list of links lately on John Edwards; check them out. One I would highlight is this New Republic item noting that Edwards may be running now, rather than waiting until he's more seasoned, because he's in danger of not being re-elected in North Carolina, a conservative state where he won with 53% of the vote in 1998, a Democrat-friendly year and one when the ballot was not headed by a popular Republican president running against (assuming Edwards doesn't get the nod) what is likely to be a liberal northeasterner. Edwards' voting record is very liberal himself; he's seen as a moderate mostly because he's from North Carolina. On the other hand, if Edwards runs a decent campaign but loses the nomination - like Gore in 1988, for example - he could announce that he's not running for re-election, and plot for a later moment to run for Governor if he wants to build his White House resume. Or he could just be an arrogant SOB who thinks nobody can say no to his charm. Lawyers have been know to fall for their own BS before.
Like most Republicans, I fear Edwards more than any of the other Democratic candidates - he's pretty, he's a Southerner, and he's awfully slippery. (The guy I fear the least, other than Al Sharpton or a nonentity like Howard Dean, is John Kerry, an able campaigner with a good biography and a deep war chest but a guy who will be incredibly easy to pigeonhole as an elitist Massachusetts liberal). On the other hand, don't forget that no sitting member of the House or Senate has been elected President in living memory, though many have tried. If you count Bob Dole, who resigned after locking up the nomination, the last three to get the nomination are him, McGovern, and Goldwater - not the best track record (throw in John Anderson if you're counting major third party runs). The last southern congressman to run in November was Strom Thurmond. Comparisons to Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are off-base, because they ran as governors; Edwards is in a Senate minority jammed with presidential contenders; his fellow Democrats won't bend over backwards to help him (word is, as the junior Dem he may be shoved off the Judiciary Committee, which will lose him the chance to grill Supreme Court nominees on national television), while Republicans in the Senate are sure to look for opportunities to put Edwards, Kerry, Daschle, Biden, Graham, Lieberman, Hillary!, Dodd, and anybody else who comes to mind on the record as often as possible with politically uncomfortable votes on taxes, partial-birth abortion, etc. Bet your buttons that Edwards' record on tort reform issues will be closely watched.
We also, except for Gephardt, Sharpton (a veteran instigator of internecine warfare) and super-longshot maybe-candidate Gary Hart, haven't seen how any of the Democratic contenders will fare under 'friendly' fire in a presidential primary, or how they will dish it out. Who will show a glass jaw, like Bill Bradley, Ed Muskie and Bob Kerrey in campaigns past? (My bet's on Daschle). Who will show a Gore-like thirst for the jugular? (Kerry's nasty but not really a street fighter; Edwards may prove meaner than we think). Who will drop out gracefully in the early going (I bet on Daschle again - I think he won't run), and who will stay in the race after he's dead, throwing bombs (Sharpton will, but will someone else fill Jerry Brown's 1992 role?). One reason for Dems not to get too high too early on Edwards is that unlike Clinton, he has to climb over a mountain of prominent party veterans; say what you will, except for Hillary and Gore we are likely to see the best the Democrats have to offer in this campaign.
Hillary, of course, is another reason why Edwards may be in a hurry. The 2004 field may be crowded, but she's made it quite clear that she's running in 2008 and not before. That gives everybody else a tremendous motive to get out of her way, given her fundraising network, her tremendous popularity with party faithful, and the fear of being branded a he-man-woman-hater if you criticize her.