The Campaign Spot

A Prediction of Gloom for Edwards, and Thoughts on the Value of Experience in Campaigns

Patrick Ruffini – all around smart guy and web strategist for Giuliani’s campaign – offers a prediction and theory that Edwards isn’t going anywhere.

Look at ActBlue, his fundraising provider. He’s raised $1,143,954 online as of this writing. Given the recent tendency of populist Democrat candidates to raise 40% or more of their money online, what does that say about Edwards’ finances? Edwards had a phenomenal Q1 in 2003, and there is a certain expectation of a repeat performance. But he was a different type of candidate back then. Four years ago, he took Fred Baron’s private jet from airplane hangar to airplane hangar, raising dough from trial lawyers without even leaving the tarmac. Is Edwards as closely identified with trial lawyers this time with his newfound populist schtick? Isn’t it possible this establishment constituency has better alternatives this time in Hillary and Obama?

As usual, it’s thought provoking.


But I’ve been thinking about the value of experience in running for president. There’s a reason that most, though by no means all, of the successful bids for the nomination in both parties have had some experience in running before. (In fact, the first-timers who have won their party’s nomination often, though not always, ran in fields with no second-time campaigners.)


In 2004, Kerry was a first time candidate; the only rival who had run before was Dick Gephardt. (Lieberman had run for veep in 2000, obviously.)


In 2000, Gore had run before, back in 1988. Bush was a first-timer in 2000, but the field was clear of those who had run before other than Steve Forbes, if I’m correct. (Lamar Alexander was in the race for, what, 20 minutes?)


In 1996, Bob Dole had run before, in 1988; Buchanan had only his insurgent primary challenge to the Elder Bush from 1992.


In 1992, Clinton was a first-timer, but then again, so was the rest of the Democratic field, if my memory is correct. In 1988, George H.W. Bush had run before, in 1980. Dukakis was a first-timer, but then again, so was the rest of the field (other than the self-destructing Gary Hart and longshot Jesse Jackson). Before 1980, Reagan had run in 1976.


If you can pardon a sports analogy… Eric Mangini,the head coach of the New York Jets, was asked what about the job surprised him after his first year. He said, “As a head coach, five things come up every day that you didn’t have scheduled.” I imagine running a presidential campaign has a similar rhythm of organized chaos and wildly unpredictable news cycle. It seems likely a candidate who has been through it all before is less likely to overreact or overlook a gathering storm of a problem.


Hillary has de facto experience on Bill’s bids, and the 1992 campaign has to rank as one of the all-time chaotic campaigns (Gennifer Flowers, “I didn’t inhale,” draft dodging, etc.). Edwards presumably learned something from last time around (although, oddly, he seems to be utilizing a lot of Dean’s style from last time). Biden’s run before. So, for whatever it’s worth, has Kucinich, and Wes Clark and Gore if they declare.


In fact, Obama, Richardson and Dodd are the only Democrats who haven’t run for president before this year.

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