Monday, January 12, 2004

Too Little Too Late?

It is not a secret that I admire Senator John Edwards and would have loved to see him as the Democratic nominee against AWOL Bush. But, despite raising a boatload of cash in Q1, Edwards was never able to rebound after his performance on Meet the Press. Despite his lack of traction, I have always harbored a desire to see Edwards climb out of the single digits and make this a real dog fight for the nomination. And while Clark is now the Official Candidate of Musclehead, I still wish Edwards the best.

But I wonder if yesterday's endorsement by the DesMoinesRegister will provide some sort of spark to Team Edwards. The past few weeks have seen several stories of an Edwards renaissance, as he eschews the down and dirty of some of the other campaigns.

It is clear to anyone who bothers to visit the candidates' websites and read their policy proposals that Edwards may be the wonkiest candidate in the bunch. (Given Clark's late start, he may be excused for placing behind Edwards.) He has proposed bold initiatives in the Clinton-New Dem tradition and has the cross cultural appeal of a Southern moderate, born of modest means who lived the American Dream fueled by income derived by fighting for folks injured by "the man".

Aside from Clark, Edwards is probably the only candidate in the field who can attract the sort of broad based support necessary to topple Team Bush. But Edwards achilles' heel seems to be either his youthful looks or his nice guy persona or both. Even though he is 50 years old, Edwards presents much younger and seems to have more of a youthful aw-shucks than the mature, yet vibrant aura of JFK or Bill Clinton. In addition, in our political climate anger and attacks are what push poll numbers up, not manners and homespun passion.

One has to wonder if Edwards simply picked the wrong time to run for the White House. Maybe four years from now America will seek out a decent, kind, bright person to sit in the Oval Office. Or maybe they do now, but our party is being fueled by blind rage and hatred, and in that climate Edwards is destined to fail. The only reason that Clark even stands a chance in this climate of rage is his electability, which has been a driving force in his campaign and his ever increasing bandwagon.

The two men do not seem to be all that different in temperament, but are obviously quite different in their respective backgrounds. Interestingly enough, both men are fighters in a way that Howard Dean never has been- Clark on the battlefield of war and Edwards in the courtroom- yet both seem to place behind the Doctor in fighting rhetoric. Perhaps those who have actually fought do not need to pepper their speeches with fighting analogies and red faced rage the way someone who has not actually fought must do in order to give the impression of a pugilist.

It is more than a bit ironic that the men who have actually fought are the ones who do not rely on pugilism to attract voters. Maybe it is something about the reluctant warrior. But Howard Dean seems destined to fake his way into the Bush fighting hearts of many of my fellow Democrats. And it is sad to see someone who really has fought for the little guy fall by the wayside simply for his unwillingness to make the veins in his neck bulge.


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