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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Edwards: The Road Back

No one has explained the lessons of NH and IA for the Edwards campaign better than Mike Lux in his Open Left Post “Anger and Progressive Populism.” I think it is a must-read for Edwards campaign strategists. The nut graph:

Edwards’ message was one of pure, undistilled anger at the big corporations who are dominating our country’s politics: he was angry at those corporations, and he was going to “fight them,” “beat them and beat them and beat them some more,” and “stand up to them.” That message certainly resonates with me, and probably does with most of the OpenLeft.com community. And there is no doubt that Democratic primary voters, and voters in general, are angry at the special interest elites. But it didn’t lift Edwards past 19% among first choices. I think the problem has been that the anger is the only thing that voters were hearing. The lesson of the Edwards failure to me is that anger alone is not enough: that we have to combine the righteous anger we feel with telling people about the new ideas we have. Edwards had produced a bunch of great policy papers earlier in the campaign, but his core message in debates and advertising felt like it was all about the anger. If we can give people a sense of how we are going to change things and solve problems, and combine it with our anger at injustice, then we can win elections.

It’s getting late in the game. But If Edwards can restore more balance between the attack and solutions parts of his messaging over the next three weeks, and either Clinton or Obama stumbles, he may do well enough to survive Tsunami Tuesday and become competitive on the home stretch.

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