Monday, February 12, 2007

Southern Son

For a presidential candidate with no credentials except for an undistinguished career in the Senate and limited campaign resources, the southern strategy seems like a good bet. The idea is that you you skip Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other New England primaries and concentrate on Super Tuesday. This is when five southern states have a primary. A convincing win here can vault you over the other candidates into front-runner status allowing you to do some serious fund-raising.

The drawback is that the early primaries may not account for many delegates but they can give a candidate an unstoppable momentum. In practice, the most a senator can get from the southern strategy is a shot at the number 2 position on the ballot and credibility for a future run.

That's how things worked for Al Gore in 1984. He failed to do well in Super Tuesday and his candidacy was over before the Doonesbury cartoons lampooning him as Prince Al had a chance to run.

John Edwards followed Gore's lead in 2004 and, like Gore, could not stop the Kerry juggernaut. Edwards did strike a chord with his "two Americas" speech. Between that and his status as the last challenger standing he got on the ticket.

Now he's back with a new image. He now says that he was too timid and paid too much attention to the advice of consultants. Like Hillary, he says that we don't know the Real Edwards.

The main differences are that he is now very anti-war and he has moved to the left of what was already a pretty liberal platform. Also, by now we know that he is the son of a mill-worker so he no longer reminds us hourly.

When Edwards ran in 2004 he was seen as under qualified with only a single term in the Senate. Now, with Obama running after 1/3 of a term, the bar has been lowered. Between that and his run along side Kerry, he seems more qualified, even if he is not. His main qualifications continue to be that he is young and articulate (there's that word again).

While he is running as the friend to the working man, there is little in his past to suggest that he would be an effective leader. He made his millions as a trial lawyer to the detriment of regular people. If you know a woman who had a C-section in the last few years you can thank Edwards. His class-action suit tippled the number of C-sections performed annually with no improvement in infant health.

In many ways, Edwards is running on a platform that FDR would have liked. He is for universal health care and against free trade.

Edwards appeals to labor and traditional liberals but is trailing Hillary and Obama badly in the polls. His main chance at capturing the nomination would be if the party rejects a white woman and a black man as too risky and goes with a southern white man.

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