John Edwards’s primary-contest record is 1-8. His margin over Massachusetts liberal John Kerry in S.C.–Edwards’s home state–was about the same as his margin over Howard Dean in Iowa. Hardly impressive. And according to the latest polls, Edwards is trailing in every upcoming primary and caucus from Washington to Virginia. He’s not even competing in Michigan this Saturday.
So why is Edwards’s position significantly different from that of Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, or Wesley Clark–three other people who won’t be the Democratic nominee, either? The media have been mocking Lieberman and Dean. Why not Edwards?
Because Edwards allegedly has a plan. Some think he’s hoping for John Kerry to have his own “Dean Scream” moment, a gaffe that completely changes the dynamic of the election. Others think he’s really hoping primary voters will note that, while he keeps losing to Kerry, he’s losing with the support of those moderates and independents the Democrats need to win in November.
But the assumption most observers are making is the one that’s filling my e-mail inbox: “Edwards isn’t running for president. He’s running for vice president. He just wants to pull enough votes, particularly in the south, to make the case that he ‘balances the ticket’ as a southerner.”
That’s from Jason in Chicago, and it does seem to be the assumption of the day. But poke around on Capitol Hill, and Democrats in Washington will tell you the frontrunner for VP isn’t Edwards, it’s Rep. Dick Gephardt.
That could just be institutional bias for a longtime congressional leader, and it’s far too early to say who the likely VP for the Dems would be. But what about the accepted assumption that picking a southerner is essential to a Kerry win and that John Edwards is proving himself to be that southerner?
Two problems: There is no southerner who can make a far-Left liberal like John Kerry competitive in the south; and even if there were such a southerner, a one-term senator who couldn’t hold his own seat isn’t that guy.
If John Kerry is the nominee, the solid south will be set in stone for the GOP. John Kerry supported partial-birth abortion, civil unions for homosexual couples, higher taxes, and the presidency of Bill Clinton. His war record will be summed up in the south by two words: Jane Fonda. The only way he could be more anathema to southerners would be to endorse tax-funded slavery reparations paid for by the former states of the Confederacy.
Therefore, if it is the case that the Democrats must win (as John Edwards keeps saying) five southern states to win the White House, then the 2004 election is already over. But obviously its not.
What should be over for the Democrats is the idea of carrying the south, which should focus them on winning the Great Lakes and Rust Belt states where Kerry will be competitive. And who’s the VP who can help in Missouri? Who can attract union voters in Ohio and New Hampshire? That would be Dick Gephardt.
There are other fine VP possibilities, too. Gov. Bill Richardson in New Mexico comes to mind. But John Edwards is not on that list.
–Radio-talk-host Michael Graham covers southern politics from his home in Virginia. He is an NRO contributor.