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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Does Edwards Have a Chance?

Sure he does. Not a particularly good one, but a chance nonetheless. With his strong second in Wisconsin–at this point, 40 percent to 34 percent with 99 percent of the precincts reporting–he has defied expectations and damped Kerry’s momentum, at least temporarily. The last pre-election poll had Edwards down 27 points to Kerry, so closing that gap to 6 points or so is a pretty amazing accomplishment.
And with Dean’s distant third in the primary (at 18 percent), it seems likely he’ll either drop out or become a complete non-factor anyway. If Edwards can pick up a disproportionate amount of Dean’s erstwhile support, that help him turn this opening into a serious, rather than token, two person race (though note that in Wisconsin voters who said they had supported Dean in the past gave about the same number of votes to Edwards and Kerry).
That said, Kerry has now won 15 of 17 contests and leads Edwards by over 400 delegates, 608-190. And the latest CBS News poll, conducted February 12-15, has him trailing Kerry nationally by 53 percent to 7 percent among likely Democratic primary voters.
Of course, we all know how quickly momentum can shift against the national front-runner this campaign season–though the primary process is now so far along that such a shift is far less likely against Kerry than it was against Dean. Still, it’s interesting to note that the Rasmussen national tracking poll of Democrats, for what it’s worth, has Edwards narrowing the gap with Kerry from 51-18 to 43-25 in the last three days.
Looking at the exit poll results, there are many intriguing results, some of which make Edwards look good (though more as a general election candidate than a Democratic primary candidate), and some of which do not.
In terms of standard demographics, Kerry and Edwards pulled about the same amount of white support (37 percent), with Edwards doing slightly better among white men and Kerry doing slightly better among white women. But Kerry clobbered Edwards among both black voters (55-15) and latino voters (46-23).
Kerry also carried every income group up to $75,000 with his largest margins among the lowest income voters (50-22 among those with less than $15,000). But Edwards beat Kerry among those between $75,000 and $100,000 (41-34) and tied him among those with $100,000 and over.
Edwards also lost every education group up to some college, but tied among college graduates and carried those with a postgraduate education (36-32).
Consistent with these patterns on education and income, Edwards carried the 21 percent of voters who said their family financial situation had gotten better (37-30), but lost among the 75 percent of voters who said their financial situation had gotten worse (45-32) or stayed the same (39-36).
Looking at partisanship and ideology, Edwards, as he has consistently done, performed much better among declared independents than among Democrats. In fact, he managed to actually beat Kerry among independents, which he has not typically been able to do, by 40 percent to 28 percent. But he lost among Democrats (62 percent of voters) by 48 percent to 21 percent
Edwards also won among conservative voters (37-30) and just barely lost moderate voters (41-39). But liberal voters prefered Kerry, 41 percent to 30 percent.
Intriguingly, Edwards lost handily among those angry (43-28) or dissatisfied (44-37) with the Bush administration (82 percent of voters), but beat Kerry among the small numbers either satisfied (50-22) or enthusiastic (36-10) about the administration. Edwards also fared well among the 16 percent of voters who said the national economy was good (40-28), but lost among the 79 percent of voters who said it was not good (41-36) or poor (45-29).
Interesting! So the more overtly populist candidate got the happy camper vote and lost those most dissatisfied with the way things are going. And then to deepen the puzzle, Edwards carried economy and jobs voters (46-35), the single largest group of issue voters, at 41 percent, but lost by wide margins on all the other top issues: health care, Iraq, education and taxes. So one would infer that the economy and jobs voters tended to be disproportionately well-off and satisfied with the state of the country. Whodda thunk it?
One last thought: some commentators are opining that Edwards did well because, like Iowa, Wisconsin has this large and significant group of rural and small town Democratic primary voters. But Edwards actually lost to Kerry 44-33 in rural areas and 41-34 in small towns. His real attraction apparently was in suburban areas, which he carried 39 percent to 35 percent and in small cities, which he narrowly lost 37 percent to 35 percent.
Much food for thought. And perhaps for a more interesting and competitive race for the next few weeks than many–including DR–had believed possible.

41 comments on “Does Edwards Have a Chance?

  1. Brian Y on

    Well, after reading all the posts, I’m more undecided than ever. But it seems to me that it depends on what issue takes precedence in the election. If the economy is the #1 issue, then I think Edwards would be the best candidate. If it’s national security, give me Kerry.
    In general, however, I still lean towards Edwards. His biggest weakness is his lack of national security creds. But that can be partially addressed by his choice of running mate (maybe Clark?), and by attacking Bush for his many failures.
    The fact is, this election will turn on how Americans view Bush, not on Kerry or Edwards. If Bush’s approval ratings are in the mid or upper 50s on election day, he’ll win. If they’re in the lower 50s, or even 40s, he could lose. But when people vote out an incumbent president, it helps if the person they’re picking to replace him with doesn’t have a lot of baggage of his own, like Kerry. I think when incumbents are voted out, people want a clean slate, a fresh start for the country. In that sense, Edwards would be a more logical choice.

  2. rt on

    I voted for Edwards in Virginia as my small contribution to turning it into a competitive race between those two. I did not vote for him because I was convinced he is our best bet–and I am still not convinced of that. I didn’t think we knew yet and I felt that among all of the candidates he had the greatest upside potential but still not that much exposure. I felt the process hadn’t played itself out with enough voters in enough states over a sufficient period of time to get a better sense on these questions.
    At the LA Times/CNN debate coming up next week will one of the panelists please ask Edwards the following questions: “How would you respond to those who say you have insufficient experience to be a strong Commander-in-Chief, particularly in these times? Can you keep America safe?” Or: “What do you consider the essential qualifications for a strong, effective Commander in Chief in these times? And how do you believe you measure up in these areas?”
    Personally I have a lot of gut level confidence in him as Commander in Chief. But I need to hear him answer this and other tough questions about his candidacy he has not faced from the media.
    Kerry of late is just beginning to get tougher scrutiny and he needs to get more, too, before the nomination is settled.
    We should not hold it against Edwards that the media coverage of him has been so favorable! We could use more nominees who have enough likability that they get better press! A *likable* liberal with no obvious personal baggage! Wow, what a concept!
    Leave it to we liberals to respond to that–and the fact he is able to respond to questions in simple, declarative sentences–by saying the guy must therefore be a lightweight! John Edwards has done very well aided by perceptions by his foes or rivals that he is a lightweight. I respectfully and strongly disagree.
    Edwards was incredibly appealing in that interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball last night. Most of the panel was falling all over him. I found it painful to shortly after that have to endure Kerry’s victory speech: the wordiness, the cobbled-together nature of the issue themes that made up the speech, the policyspeak, etc. It harkened back memories of Mondale, Dukakis, Gore. He bore faint resemblence to the animated, fighting John Kerry in Iowa who so surprised and pleased me.
    Again–we should be intrigued at the possibility of having a potentially very media-genic candidate such as Edwards be our messenger–and we need to see how he’ll respond when they start whacking him with something other than softball or repetitive questions (would you accept VP? will you bow out if you don’t win Wisconsin?). I can’t wait to see how that goes in the coming weeks.
    Having a chance to see how both Edwards and Kerry perform under gradually escalating scrutiny and pressure is one of the most important reasons why having this thing become a competitive race would be good for us.
    Let the discussions continue. They are healthy.

  3. Donald from Hawaii on

    While I can admire John Kerry for his personal courage under fire, already he has pulled his punches regarding George (A.)W.(O.L.) Bush’s suspect service in the Texas Air Nat’l Guard, encouraging his supporters to not pursue the issue.
    Say what, Senator Kerry?
    I’ve said this in previous threads on this site, and it bears repeating: this election will turn on one issue and one issue only — the veracity and credibility of President Bush. The controversy over whether or not Bush was truthful about his service in the Texas Air Nat’l Guard cuts right to the heart of that very issue of his veracity and credibility.
    Sen. Kerry’s apparent decision to forgo directly challenging Bush’s truthfulness in this instance only reinforces my inherent doubts about both his willingness and his ability to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to remove these neofascists from power.
    This is absolutely the wrong time to run a current campaign based upon previous experiences and history. We best realize that we are engaged in a political war, if only because the power-hungry GOP has declared war on all of us.

  4. Jon on

    Kerry won’t take Edwards. Kerry would persue a non southern strategy, write off the south and try to sweep the midwest. He would caclulate that they best way to do that would be pick a running mate who can deliver one key midwestern state. Probably its gov.

  5. Alan Snipes on

    A couple of important points: 1). No one has noticed a new CNN/Gallup Poll. Get Ready:
    Kerry 55 Stupid 43
    Edwards 54 Stupid 44
    The best thing is a Kerry-Edwards ticket, which enables the party to unite it’s greatest strengths this year.

  6. brad on

    National security is AN issue, but jobs (under the umbrella of domestic issues) is the #1 issue this year.
    Domestic issues are one of Democrats’ biggest strengths. More people trust us on domestic issues. It’s what we do best.
    If we are going to win this election, we need to play to our strengths most–WE need to dictate the terms of the debate toward a domestic agenda.
    We cannot make the mistake of letting Bush and the RNC create the terms. The truth is, Bush & Co. have done more damage to themselves on national security than we have impressed upon them…Kay, O’Neil, etc. We don’t need to do very much this year to convince voters that Bush has no upper hand on this issue–he’s made it VERY easy for us! Plenty of Republicans and Independents are already livid at the president about this issue without our help.
    If we lead with what we do best (and what Americans perceive we do best) by relying most on a domestic-heavy platform and make our little jabs at Bush regarding his abysmal national security/foreign policy to keep the negative focus on him, we’ll win hands down!
    We cannot underestimate the power of an eloquent communicator, either. Not only is that what sells our agenda to the public, but it excites the party faithful (think FDR, Kennedy, Clinton and yes, very unfortunately for us, Reagan).
    It is for all the above reasons that I think Edwards is our best shot at winning in November.

  7. BrilliantIdiot on

    Some people here insist Kerry is unlikeable, yet he’s got very nice favorable/unfavorables. That suggest that the Kerry is more liked, admired, supported, than the tiny educated slice of informed political fans that comment on weblogs think. I mean, the guy is racking up votes, and in Wisc. 4 out of 5 said they’d be satisfied with him as the nominee.
    Yes, he’s not exciting. No, most voters don’t care to be excited by politicians. They want someone who they think is a competent leader who reflects their values and positions. And electability is an old saw, people have always voted this way, with large numbers always going toward front-runners.
    Kerry will fold easily, as someone said? He’s holding up better than Gore did. He’s much tougher than Gore. Gore was an intellectual. Very different personality. Just because Kerry isn’t Clinton re: warmth, the love vibe — doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other characteristics going for him. Again, he’s scooping up votes against tough competition.
    That said, Edwards is another very acceptable choice for me, but in this year with national security as an issue. I have doubts.
    Nobody will effectively define Kerry as unpatriotic or soft. That’s how you win on security issues, you present a character to voters that suggests strong leadership. Yes, it’s superficial. But very few voters based on policy nuances and past votes.

  8. PhillyGuy on

    About my last post:
    I find it endlessly fascinating and amusing that the pundits don’t ever mention the fact that we no longer have “winner take all” primaries and caucuses. The new rule is any candidate with more than 15% of the vote gets a proportion of the delegates from that state. It’s a very safe bet that both Edwards and Kerry will continue to rack up delegates in ALL of the remaining 34 states but will also be splitting the pot to a large extent.
    It’s also quite interesting to note that in the first state Kerry faced only two real opponents, he only managed to score 40% of the vote. This race is FAR from over…

  9. PhillyGuy on

    I just sat down and ran some calculations regarding delegates in the rest of the states. Assuming neither Kerry nor Edwards starts racking up huge wins (consistently greater than 60%) in the rest of the primaries (and we still have 34 states to go), we’re going to have a brokered convention.

  10. Janice on

    I have nothing at all against Kerry, but I must admit to being shocked that so many people polled vote for him because they think he is the candidate with the best chance of beating Bush. He strikes me as Gore II in terms of charisma (nice enough guy, has his moments, but doesn’t MOVE you). Worse, the Republicans are salivating over the prospect of going against him. He is going to get crushed like a narc at a biker rally if we send him up against Karl Rove and Company.

  11. brad on

    Limbaugh is probably pushing Edwards because the Republicans/conservatives view a long Democratic primary as good for them. They think that the longer our primary the more money and resources we’ll deplete before the general election. With Edwards as basically the last real challenger to Kerry, the Limbaugh/RNC machine sees Edwards as their last shot at prolonging the primary season for us. I don’t necessarily take that view as the more free press we have to get our ideas out, the lower Bush’s numbers go.

  12. JOn on

    It feels to me as though most of the appeal of Kerry has to do with the perception that other people finding him appealing. I know that is true in my case. I have defended it to an degree that it sort of represents an ability on Kerrys end to manage the media. But I think that there are some things worth asking before this is over.
    For example, does anyone REALLY think that Kerrys experience in Nam will make him a stronger leader against our enemies, or do we all just think (hope) that other people will feel that way? Do people really feel that Edwards mere one term on the Senate intelligence comittee is inadequate foreign policy experience or do we just thing (fear) other people will feel that way.
    I am not trying to bait anyone, I am really curious. If its the latter, thats fine, but is there any way we can find out how general election voters in swing states feel about these issues?

  13. viper on

    Martin, sorry I gave the wrong impression. I DO want a candidate that can appeal to the middle. Heck, I was a Clark-man for as long as that lasted. What I was wary of here in Wis. is the fact that Limbaugh was pushing Edwards. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd?
    Anyway, if Edwards truly draws from the middle and votes from the republicans were sincere, more power to him!

  14. Jon on

    Hey Frankly.
    I do agree that Edwards main weakness that he seems to project less foreign policy seriousness than Kerry or Bush, I just disagree that this is less serious than Kerry’s long record of taking unpopular stands on defense issues.
    But to answer your question about how Edwards deals with the problem if he were the nominee-First get a very serious foreign policy running mate. Biden would be my first choice. Then go on the offensive. Experience is a double edged sword, as Kerry will find out if he gets the nomination. Bush has made a lot of mistakes but Edwards is a clean slate. That gives Edwards a lot of avenues to attack (Pakistahn spreading REAL WMD’s, Haiti falling into civil war, Kim Jung Ill getting Nukes). Bush only has the one.

  15. reignman on

    “Let’s not make the mistake of voting for the better paper candidate again.”
    indeed. and there’s always a difference between consolodating the democratic base, and who is really the most electable. there shouldn’t be too much of a Nader problem this year, but it may help that Kucinich and Edwards are “buddies.”

  16. ramesh on

    I’m a strong Edwards supporter–I’ve contributed to his campaign and am a delegate for him to the Democrats Abroad international convention in Scotland. I think the poster “frankly” makes very good points, however, about Edwards. His major weakness is inexperience, especially in foreign and defense policy (a lesser one is a perception of emptiness, style over substance, but I think that fades when people realize Edwards actually has the most detailed policy proposals of the candidates).
    As for the issue of experience, it is a negative for Edwards, but I think it may be more of a negative for Kerry. On every major national security issue since Vietnam, Kerry can be portrayed as weak. He called for cuts in the defense budget a few times and did the same for the CIA, criticized the government’s handling of (admittedly dirty) wars in Central America, voted no on the first Gulf War (and sent different letters to constituents based on their concerns… I believe this was documented by Mickey Kaus or TNR), and flip-flops to no end on the recent Iraq War. Edwards has a thin record, to be sure, but he’s been much more reassuring on the subject–calling for a new national intelligence agency, action on homeland security, and generally showing more backbone on the war. I’ll gladly vote for Kerry if he’s the nominee, but I think he’ll be much weaker than Edwards.

  17. PhillyGuy on

    Bush may be a “war president”, as he likes to call himself, but the public now knows that he’s no Lincoln or FDR. He’s more like LBJ in 1968 or Truman by 1952. Edwards will run circles around Bush during the debates, on foreign policy and everything else.

  18. EdSez on

    There are two ways to approach the War President / strong on defense angle. One is to play up your own strengths. Kerry is better than Edwards here in terms of personal history, but fairly disastrous in terms of Senate voting history.
    The other approach is to attack the perception that Bush is a success in these areas. Iraq is a mess, Afghanistan is not much better, Osama is at large and most of the world (even our allies) fear and resent us. This argument will take a delicate touch, to avoid any tinges of America-bashing. Edwards is much better able to do this. If he can diminish Bush’s positive ratings in this area (and he is a trial lawyer with many facts to work with), then Bush has no positives left.

  19. DS on

    Why did Bush win in 2000? Because he was more likeable. What major flaw does Kerry have? His likeability.
    I agree that national security is an important issue, but so is the likeability issue. Looking at the ARG poll from 2/6 (w/Clark @ 15%) to 2/12 (w/o Clark) to the election on 2/17, Kerry went 41/53/40. Meanwhile Edwards went 10/16/34.
    Kerry did not seem to expand beyond his original numbers. (Even Dean went 9/11/18.) Edwards, like most states he has competed in, pulled the undecideds and the swing voters once people got to know him.
    This does not necessarily mean he is more electable than Kerry, but it certainly highlights how much more likeable (and persuasive?) he is for those on the fence.
    Either Kerry needs to get more likeable & anti-establishment or Edwards needs more foreign policy & national security experience. All in the eyes of voters.

  20. frankly0 on

    As for the idea that the National Guard flap is over, that is obviously not true, as long as Kerry is the nominee.
    It is a button the Dems can push again and again on Bush, because there is simply no way that it redounds to his credit when contrasted with Kerry’s heroism and sacrifice. It may be that how it is brought up will have to made more delicate, and different people will bring it up in different ways depending on their roles, but it will not die, simply because Kerry’s own experiences and his alluding to them will always bring to mind the implicit unflattering comparison.
    Even if the effect of the National Guard thing vs. Kerry’s experiences is principally to damage Bush’s credibility in describing himself as the War, to the point that Rove feels he must back off this issue, that is a HUGE net gain for a Dem nominee. For on the OTHER issues, ALL Dem candidates have a very compelling story.

  21. frankly0 on

    So the response to the Edwards’ problem with suggesting strength on national defense is that he’s been on a Senate committee for 5 years?
    Don’t you see how very weak that is? You’re going to compare 5 years of work on a committee with the 4 years experience Bush will now have as a Commander in Chief through TWO wars? Try to remember that Edwards is NOT running against GOVERNOR Bush but rather PRESIDENT Bush.
    How can explain to you that the Edwards response just doesn’t cut it? Probably I can’t.

  22. Yanman on

    Honestly, people: how can anyone say that John Kerry is more electable than John Edwards? Because of his medals? Because he has a good quip about Bush dressing up and playing fighter-pilot? Do you really think this will innoculate him from the inevitable Republican attacks about his flip-flopping on Iraq (and other issues). Do you think he will win the military vote? Come on. We all need to remember the history of modern presidental elections. In every election I can remember–and that goes back only to 1980–the candidate with the better personality wins. The candidate who the voters most identify with wins. That person is not John Kerry; it is John Edwards, hands down. We should not pick a candidate based on a fear of what the Republicans are going to throw at us. Bush wants to run as a war president? Fine. The party has plenty of answers to that and John Edwards, who has more foregin policy expereince that GWB before he was elected, will have to reassure the voters of his committment to security. He can do that because he is a better communicator than anyone else in the field. I have more faith in Edwards ability to do this than Kerry’s ability to convince voters in Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri, Arizona and New Hampshire that he understands them. Many voters in those states may disenchanted with Bush but in the end Bush will reassure them just enough and they will vote for him over Kerry because he they identify more with him. Democrats, especially reasonably well-educated ones, too often elevate resume over personality. We think that if we’re right on the issues, we win. And when the voters don’t agree, we grow angry and frustrated. We curse republican dirty tricks and blame the media for not exposing the lies and double talk. Let’s not make the mistake of voting for the better paper candidate again. I hope the nomination process plays out longer so that people can really see the choices that are before them.

  23. PhillyGuy on

    Just one note about Edwards and foreign policy. He’s on the foreign relations committee in the Senate and already has more experience in that arena than Bush had running as governor of Texas. There will be plenty of time during the general election for Edwards to prove himself as an able and articulate foreign policy candidate.
    On a related matter: whatever mileage the Democrats could get on the National Guard flap has already been gotten. Kerry’s frontrunner status has served us well for the past two weeks in pointing out Bush’s weak military history. But the point has been made, that cow has been milked.

  24. frankly0 on

    You fail to answer the obvious question: how does Edwards counter the War President image? How does Edwards point to ANYTHING in his background that suggests strength on issues of national defense?

  25. Jon on

    One more thing in favor of Edwards. The National Guard story backfired at best, was a GOP stunt at worst. By leaking out one document at a time, they got the free media to show the picture of Bush in a jet fighter over and over again. The way the media dropped it this week signals that Bush proved that he served honorably. While Kerry tried to distance himself from the story, it still felt like he was attacking Guard service. This is why Kerry is now loosing to Bush again in all of the polls.

  26. Jon on

    Brian, We know that Bush is a terrible president. Lots of moderate republicans think he is at least less than a complete sucess. They might vote for Edwards in the primary because they want to vote against Bush in the fall but couldn’t imagine themselves voting for a Kerry.
    The key point from all the polls is that the vast vast VAST majority of Kerry voters are really voting against Bush, not for Kerry per say. Therefore it seems safe to say that almost all of them would vote for Edwards. Most of Edwards supporters are voting FOR Edwards and thus might not vote for Kerry. Since Kerrys only real selling point is the mistaken idea that he is more electable, I think this spells a real challenge. At least thats my hope.
    An interesting exit poll result is the Vets, who supported Edwards over Kerry. I think that Kerrys vietnam vet strategy is only working with people who think it will work with other people. The war ended a LONG time ago–we lost and we are sick of talking about it.

  27. Steve Cohen on

    I think the strengths and weaknesses of both Kerry and Edwards balance each other. Kerry’s military background is a huge advantage this year; his patrician aloofness and centrism is a disadvantage. He has rather loudly taken on the outsourcing issue with his “Benedict Arnold” references, but it would be better if he would propose some specifics and show some willingness to answer the job loss questions that bother lots of people such as dmh.
    Edwards wears the populist mantle more genuinely than Kerry, but with him we run the risk of his being tarred as a lightweight and a “trial lawyer” (how bad is that, actually, I don’t know?), and as many have pointed out the negative publicity machine has not trained its sights on him yet. And even on the populism I, a populist, have questions. I don’t want someone to feel my pain, I want someone who does something about it.
    I am all for letting this continue if for no other reason than that two guys bashing Bush garners airtime for Bush-bashing.

  28. frankly0 on

    Upper Left,
    I guess each of us finds the other maddening.
    Here’s what makes me tear my hair out when I contemplate your argument.
    If there’s anything that should be obvious from the past couple of weeks, it’s how very effectively the prospect of a Kerry nomination has put the Bush/Rove machine off its game.
    And what has been, and really must be, the Bush/Rove game? Don the mantle of War President. That’s the very best thing Bush has going for him, and maybe the only real thing he has going for him.
    Yet this has been under severe attack, mostly because of extremely unflattering comparisons between Kerry’s Vietnam War experiences and those of Bush. Those comparisons are simply not going to go away. Bush, despite his declared support of the Vietnam War, did everything he could to avoid combat service, pulling strings to get himself out. This looks like a severe character issue, suggesting both the worst form of entitlement and basic moral cowardice. Kerry, in contrast, can bring his own quite different experiences and sacrifices, his refusal to let others do the fighting, and his “band of brothers” can speak about his leadership under fire, and his literally saving their lives at great risk to his own.
    Anyone who has followed this surely must see that Kerry just wins on this issue, and with a smack down, every time it gets brought up — and it will be brought up relentlessly by both the Kerry campaign and the press.
    Now you may say that this issue is one thing, and national security another. In a sense of course this is true, but also mostly irrelevant. “Strength on national security”, in the mind of most voters, is not really a logical or rational point. It is a PSYCHOLOGICAL point about the willingness of a President to take military action whenever it might be necessary. As unfair as it is, Republicans by definition get a pass on this, because they are ALWAYS spoiling for a fight (even if it’s with the important qualification that it’s some other guy who fights it). A Democrat needs more, and Kerry has it. The very fact that Kerry volunteered for the Vietnam War, even in the face of some of his own reservations at the time, powerfully suggests precisely that inclination. He is no wimp eager to avoid confrontation by military force at all costs.
    Let me simply point out that, had Edwards instead been the presumptive nominee, the AWOL story could hardly have achieved the prominence it has, because it would not have had any dramatic contrast with Edwards military background — or lack thereof. It would have been essentially a non-issue, as it had been in 2000. No one would be asking how Bush was able to jump ahead of all the other applicants to the National Guard to get his cushy slot. Bush would have declared himself the War President, and Edwards would have been reduced to fruitless whining about the unfairness and irrelevance of it all. This is a losing move, but Edwards has no other.
    Now the major reason I don’t take the numbers for Edwards seriously as any indication of his real electability is that those numbers don’t take into account how things would play out as these stories get introduced. Poll numbers of any kind are NOT going to answer the important questions of how the stories and arguments match up as the general election campaign progresses. There’s no way to understand those other than to think them through, and envision the point and counterpoint as time goes by, and calculate how they are likely to figure into the decision of voters.
    What I have always liked from Day 1 about Kerry is that I could see how well the argument would proceed with him as nominee — a view that recent press on Bush and Kerry has only confirmed. The one uncertainty I’ve had about him was his ability to connect to voters — but his dramatic come from behind victory in Iowa, which seems to have been based on little else, has, for me, pretty much eliminated that concern.

  29. MAtoNC on

    I grew up in MA and now live in NC, and have experience with the governance of both Kerry and Edwards. Earlier, I sent Dean money. Last night. I sent Edwards money.
    From the electoral calculus point of view, I find it harder to believe that Kerry can win outside the base than Edwards.
    Look at the reciprocals of their own states. There’s no way Edwards will lose in MA. The elctorate is too progressive. There’s no way Kerry will win in NC- he just doesn’t resomate here. I’m not saying Edwards will win NC, but it’s certainly up for grabs against Bush. I think this is the key- Edwards puts more red states in play.
    I agree with the other poster who said Edwards needs to lay out a clearer foreign policy vision and plan for Iraq/terrorism.
    But in the end, I think it’s a bit of a gut reaction- I don’t know ANYONE who’s passionate about Kerry. I know many (myself included) who consider him “adequate.”
    Edwards provides outstanding constituent service and those who know more than what the media says about him rave. Those who know more about Kerry- I don’t get the same sense.

  30. Sara on

    Two more weeks of “real” primary probably is a real advantage. I expect Kerry to essentially seal the deal Morch 2nd, but the added campaigning and competition for votes will make him a better candidate.
    I think this was the intention of many Wisconsin voters — many were voting tactically — let the next group of states have some degree of choice. In addition, one must remember that Republicans could vote in the Wisconsin Primary — and it could well be tha “happy campers” with relatively high income were Republicans who have little intention voting for a Dem in the fall. They too would like to see Kerry falter. It would be interesting to see an analysis of this based on known party indexes for particular precincts.
    Two exit poll matters interest me. First, Kerry’s good performance in African American and Latino areas is important. Getting a high turn-out here next fall is absolutely critical — remember Wisconsin only went Gore by about 7000 votes, and Gore’s high turn out in minority areas was easily that margin. While I expect Edwards could do it in a crunch, I am not sure he was pressed to do so in NC Senate Race.
    But my real problem with Edwards is simply his total lack of Foreign Policy-Diplomacy-Military experience. With Bush wanting to run as a “war President” and all that, inexperience, and indeed a near total absence of talking about all these matters thus far in the campaign really worries me.In the next couple of weeks I hope Kerry puts much focus on these issues while developing a sharper attack on Bush’s economy, Jobs, etc.

  31. PhillyGuy on

    Having been ambivalent about the candidates up until a few weeks ago but watching every debate, pundit show etc…, I am now thoroughly convinced that John Edwards is the Democrats’ next JFK. He’s young (50), charismatic, fresh on the national stage and unbelievably articulate. Edwards also has the distinct advantage of not having a long political history that can be exploited by the Republicans. The worst they can say about him is that he’s a trial lawyer.
    While Kerry has some assets (war hero, experience, steady hand, “gravitas”, presidential face), those assets make him the Democratic version of Bob Dole. He also has an incredibly long list of liabilities that the GOP will spare not effort to exploit relentlessly (“Massachusetts liberal”; two decade Senate record chock full of votes to distort, terrible problem with being on all sides of all issues–Iraq being only the most recent example; special interest money, patrician upbringing, weird “ferener” wife, to name a few).
    Now here’s the bottom line. I challenge anyone on this blog to convince me that Kerry can retain Gore’s states AND add 11 additional electoral votes (since Gore states now add up to only 260 after the census). Can he pick up New Hampshire? Probably, but that’s only 4 votes. How about Ohio? Florida? Nevada? Missouri? I’m having a hard time seeing it, personally.
    On the other hand, I think it’s quite conceivable for Edwards to hold onto Gore’s states and pick up places like Nevada, Missouri and Ohio where patrician northeast liberals don’t quite fit in so well but middle class “sons of mill workers” just might. This is precisely why I don’t buy the argument that Kerry is more “electable” than Edwards. If this is the year that Democratic voters decide to get practical, stop worrying about pure ideology and vote for the most “electable”, then they damned well better start actually paying attention to the two finalists in this race and stop voting for the “momentum” candidate.
    I am hoping, praying and sending money for John Edwards. I urge you to do the same.

  32. Hastings1066 on

    Correction to opening blog:
    Those MOST dissatisfied with the way things are going voted for Sharpton, Kucinich, Dean, even Mosley-Braun and Clark. These voters feel even more disenfranchised from the Democratic party as they see Kerry getting the rubber stamp from the national media before they even had a chance to vote.
    Of course Edwards and Dean BOTH have a chance!
    Dean is still leading Edwards in delegates, although Edwards is gaining on him. Dean will certainly win Vermont, and make strong showings in NY and CA, likely taking second in both states.
    Edwards has taken second in 7 contests- IA, MO, OK, SC, TN, VA, WI. while Dean has taken second place in six – DC, MI, NH, NV, NM, and WA.
    There is a DEAD HEAT for second place in this race.

  33. dmh on

    As a voter with income exceeding 100k, reasonably optimistic about my own prospects, and who voted for Edwards in a recent primary, perhaps I can offer some incite into the populist appeal of Edwards to this tiny slice of the demographic.
    I am concerned about the direction of this country, deeply concerned about the prospects for my children in an economy that offers no real security regardless of education or professional attainment, and deeply troubled by the societal schisms caused by what Edwards calls the Two Americas. This country desperately needs to find a way to offer hope and opportunity to everyone and the blithe reassurances that outsourcing white collar jobs and sending what used to be good, middle-class, manufacturing jobs overseas is really good for us just does not cut it. The simple question that many ask–What will take the place of the lost jobs?–is met my resounding silence. Remember in the 1990s we were told that we will retrain people as computer programmers–the very occupations now being outsourced to India and elsewhere.
    It is easy for the privileged and the oligarchs to be sanguine about the dislocations occurring in this economy but many, even those who are relatively well-off, are not. I voted for Edwards because I believe the Democrats must respond to this terribly important issue and Kerry has not yet been willing to fully embrace this message. Having said that, I will happily vote Kerry in November and think others who share my views will as well.

  34. Mark on

    Does the question “how much time have you spent reading or watching shows about the election in the past 2 weeks?” or something like that ever come up in these exit polls? I’d be interested to know if Edwards is doing better among those paying closer attention and if that coinsides with the other demographics he’s polling well with?

  35. Upper left on

    Your probably right that it doesn’t matter. It is probably too late to stop Kerry. However, your apparent refusal to see the very real advantages that Edwards has over Kerry is maddening. Look, Kerry and Edwards are both pitching roughly the same message, but they are very, very different messengers.
    Kerry has advantages: war record, foriegn policy experience, and wrinkles. Kerry also has a huge number of vulnerabilities: patrician background; Skull and Bones membership; anti-Vietnam activity; long, liberal, and largely unproductive legislative career; lots of special interest money; geography; friendship with Ted Kennedy; Teresa’s millions; and possible personal life issues.
    Edwards has his own strengths and vulnerabilities. I believe that reasonable people can reasonbly disagree about which would ultimately be the most effective messenger, but we need to have this discussion. We should have been having this discussion since the day after Iowa. Instead, I have watched as all the former Clark supporters have scrambled onto the the Kerry bandwagon without every thinking about the vulnerabilities of their new candidate.
    I think it gets down to a question of perception about Bush’s weaknesses. If you think national security machismo is the key to victory, then Kerry is the logical guy. On the other hand, if the most important issue is standing up for working and middle class people against an economy and a government that are heavily weighted towards the interests of the rich and powerful, then I think Edwards would be a better choice. IMO, Edwards is both a better messenger for the outsider, populist message and less likely to be tagged as a doctrinaire, New-England, liberal-elitest. If the press and the insiders would stop telling the voters that Kerry is more electable, I think Edwards could actually beat Kerry in a straight-up two man race.
    Let the debate rage. At a minimum, a spirited debate over the next few weeks will keep the Democratic message in the news.

  36. frankly0 on

    In many ways, Edwards’ numbers here approach meaninglessness.
    Just about everybody’s talking about how Edwards might now start to “differentiate” himself from Kerry. But the real question is, what would happen to Edwards if Kerry begins the “differentiation”?
    The reality is that Edwards is now considered a great alternative to Kerry because Edwards just gets nothing but glowing reviews, with nary a thought to any problems he might have. Edwards has gotten some digs in on Kerry, but no one, not Kerry, not any other candidate, and no one in the media in recent weeks, has been taking shots at Edwards.
    A few kind attentions by Kerry to Edwards’ various, uh, issues — perceived weakness on national security, a general lightness of being, very shallow experience — and he will seem a far less attractive candidate, and his numbers will plummet.
    In the long run, numbers without “vetting” pretty much signify nothing.
    Good numbers in the absence of vetting is a necessary condition for electability, because they entail that the candidate can connect with and appeal to voters, without which a candidate cannot win. But good numbers for a candidate untested by criticism are far from a sufficient condition of electability.

  37. Brian Y on

    Isn’t there a fairly easy explanation for the breakdown of poll results in Wisconsin? I happen to be a fan of Edwards, but it seems to me that he picked up a lot of Republican voters who simply wanted to slow down John Kerry.


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