Saturday, July 09, 2005

Candidate Profile Twenty-Three: John Edwards

I can still clearly recall, in the summer of 2002, a conversation I had with a very liberal friend. Surveying the political landscape on the Democratic side, I told him the nominee would be either Kerry or Edwards. I didn't know much about Edwards at the time, but he was a young, good-looking son of the South, and he concerned me somewhat as a serious obstacle to Bush's 2004 bid. That was the high point of my opinion of the man.

Johnny Reid Edwards - UNC faculty profile

Resume: former Senator from North Carolina; Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate, 2004; successful trial attorney; People's sexiest politician, 2000; currently director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity

Edwards has an outer veneer of 'aw, shucks' all-American boy-next-door made good, but he's showed a bit of a vicious streak since losing in 2004 that hints to me that he ultimately can't take the heat (probably as a result of his immense wealth - he certainly doesn't need politics). His non-concession on the eve of the election was angry and bitter (I agree with Tim Blair's characterization here), and he recently set tongues wagging when he took a quite public shot at Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill in her presence (actually, that's probably a net positive for me).

John Edwards is a prettier Jim Hightower; his public persona is that of the populist, as characterized by his current employment. The populist message has never been a winner, though; just ask 8-time loser and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum. Edwards trotted out his 'Two Americas' schtick at every opportunity in 2004, and it was tiresome the first time, much less the 400th. Americans like a person with a positive vision; Edwards wanted us to feel bad about ourselves.

Edwards certainly didn't add anything of value to the 2004 ticket; I think it's pretty safe to say that the number of voters who went Kerry's way because of Edwards was exceedingly small. Perhaps that's an unfair criticism; I'm not a big believer in vice presidential candidates as vote-winners. I believe people vote for the top of the ticket, pretty much exclusively. Still, I can't see that Edwards helped his prospects any during the campaign.

As is quite obvious by now, I don't really see Edwards as a serious candidate; he's not a huge long shot, but only because he has name recognition, and that means a lot this far out. His unpopular populism, canned stump personality, trial lawyer connections, and sharp temper will ultimately undo his candidacy.


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