Campaign 2008, Politics

So Long, Johnny Boy

It looks like John Edwards is leaving the 2008 race.

Edwards was an also-ran in the race, but it is somewhat surprising that he is giving up before Super Tuesday. Generally candidates don’t leave unless the money is tight, and Edwards seems to have been doing well enough in terms of fundraising to stay on for a while. Then again, given Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, it’s also quite possible that family concerns are understandably influencing Edwards’ decision.

The question is where Edward’ support will go. Based on the previous contests, much of Edwards’ support may go to Hillary—she’s the one who seems to have the greatest appeal to union voters and lower-income voters, both of whom were demographic groups thats most strongly identified with Edwards. It would also be strategically wise for Clinton to pick up Edwards for the VP position—Edwards has some appeal with the “NASCAR voters” that Clinton alienates and would broaden her geographic appeal. It would also help Clinton with the far-left base of the Democratic Party who have embraced Edwards.

It was only a matter of time before Edwards quit, but to have Edwards quit before Super Tuesday creates an opportunity for one of the two Democratic candidates to vault ahead of the other in what is likely to be a very close race. The question that everyone will be asking now is how those Edwards voters break.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty offers some kind words towards Edwards:

As much as we may grind our teeth in response to Edwards’ economic snake oil, and mock other characteristics (the YouTube hair fussiness, the giant house, the work for a hedge fund to “learn about poverty”, the exorbitant speaking fees, the $400 haircut)… he’s a man with a family, who soldiered on into an exhausting effort, at the urging of his wife who’s taking on cancer that may end her life. Elizabeth’s cancer didn’t turn into a political prop, and there was something inspiring in the way that this couple treated the worst possible news one could imagine as a minor impediment to what they saw as the mission of their lives. Some of us are left wondering if we would be able to fight on the way they did if tragedy struck our lives in the same way.

Keep this man far away from elected office – and keep an eye on the rumor that Obama would make him Attorney General – but wish him and his family well as they continue on life’s path ahead.

It’s always good to get a reminder that are political adversaries are also human beings, and we shouldn’t let differences of ideology or policy distract us from that. In today’s cutthroat political world, too many times we tend to forget.


Planting The Field

Had last night’s CNN/YouTube debate in Florida had any more planted questions there’d be a government farm subsidy involved. One of the questioners, a retired General who was openly gay, was a member of a Hillary Clinton campaign task force. Another was an activist for John Edwards. Another was a union activist. Another was an Obama supporter. CNN apparently did very little to vet the questions to make sure that real uncommitted voters got a chance to ask their questions. Even Grover Nordquist, whose question was perfectly fair, still doesn’t really belong in a “citizen” oriented debate.

CNN truly dropped the ball on this debate, and it ended up hurting them even more. Had Fox News planted Republican questioners at a similar event, the left would be out for blood. Even if you ignore the questions by the union activist and the Obama supporter on the principle that they’re voters who have a right to question the candidates, having a Clinton campaign advisor on the debate demonstrated a major lack of forethought by a network that’s already been nick-named the Clinton News Network.

Campaign 2008, Politics

What Could Stop The Hillary Juggernaut?

Salon takes a look at how the seemingly inevitable rise of Hillary Clinton could end, with 10 possible scenarios for dethroning the Queen of the Democratic Race.

It is quite possible that Barack Obama could get his act together just as Kerry had done in the waning moments of 2003 and early 2004. However, the dynamics of this race are vastly different than the 2004 race. In 2004, the Democrats were searching for the most “electable” candidate. The meltdown of Howard Dean at the Val-Aire Ballroom was the clenching moment in which Democrats realized that Dean was a liability to the party. Edwards—despite the endorsement of the Des Moines Register—was too much of a lightweight, and Kerry had the perception of “electability” that the Democrats so desperately wanted.

In 2008, there seems to be little doubt that Clinton doesn’t have a problem with “electability” despite her high negatives. Clinton would get women to the polls. She has experience. She’s been preparing for this job for most of her life. She is the polar opposite of her husband. Bill Clinton was naturally magnetic but an undisciplined and unfocused campaigner. Hillary Clinton is not naturally magnetic, but she’s focused like a laser on achieving her objectives. Her discipline counts for a lot in politics, as it’s kept her from making too many of the mistakes that other candidates commonly make early in the race.

Is Hillary Clinton an inevitability? Politics isn’t about inevitability, and the dynamics of any race can and will change over time. With months left before even the first primary (even in this collapsed season) there’s plenty of time for Hillary to jam her foot firmly in her mouth. Her bizarre cackling on camera, her $5,000 baby bonus plan, and her having to wiggle out of her previous support of the Iraq War are all liabilities for the Democratic frontrunner. Will something cause her to crack, leaving room for a resurgent Obama or an invigorated Edwards? Only time will tell, and even as disciplined as Hillary may be, the more time in the spotlight the more the likelihood of making that fatal mistake.