Thursday, July 8, 2004

Edwards gives Dems hope for November

Presumptive Democratic nominee Mass. Sen. John Kerry made a dynamic vice presidential choice Tuesday morning which should shift his sagging presidential campaign into overdrive.

Kerry chose North Carolina Sen. John Edwards as his running mate, calling him a man who "understands and defends the values of America" and "whose life has prepared him for leadership, and whose character brings him to exercise it," according to the Associated Press. The choice is a good one for Kerry and puts the Democrats in an even better position to take back the White House in November.

Throughout the primary process, Edwards was often the second choice candidate of voters. New Hampshire primary voters, who also cast votes for vice president in a non-binding referendum, cast more than 16,600 votes for Edwards. The high number of VP votes in the state inspired the Democratic insiders and the establishment media to spin the virtues of a Kerry/Edwards ticket. This spin, unfortunately, helped to derail Edwards' effort. Even though he said on a number of occasions that he wouldn't be Kerry's running mate, the insiders and the media got their wish.

And this isn't such a bad thing. Edwards has the Clintonesque Southern charm and personality without all the questionable ethics, morals and glad-handling. He isn't a career politician, having spent many years as a trial lawyer, taking on powerful interests and winning judgments for clients who had nowhere else to turn.

Edwards also has a moving life story to tell the undecided voters of America. The son of a mill worker and a postal clerk, Edwards was the first one in his family to go to college. He clearly understands what it is like to live amongst the lower middle class and knows what it means to work hard to earn what you have. His campaign theme - "Two Americas," one for the privileged and the other for the rest of us - was believable because he had been there. These values, or acknowledgement of such values, are important to the sea of red states between Pennsylvania and California which President George W. Bush won in 2000. When juxtaposed with Kerry and his Ivy League, privileged background, the decision to pick Edwards becomes even clearer.

On issues, both Kerry and Edwards are similar, approaching policy from the more centrist side of the party, despite criticism to the contrary. Both foolishly supported bad Bush policies like the invasion for Iraq resolution, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the unfunded federal mandate, No Child Left Behind. Both also supported Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status with China during Clinton's presidency, although Edwards actively campaigned against bad trade deals in the primaries. All of these votes in any other election would potentially hurt them with swing and liberal voters.

There is a good chance that Edwards will overshadow Kerry in the charisma, performance, and message departments, something Kerry probably thought a little bit about. The Republicans are clearly worried - starting their attacks 15 minutes after Kerry made the announcement - ridiculing Edwards' work as a lawyer and Kerry's comments that Edwards didn't have enough experience.

There is also the risk of having two senators on the ticket together. Only a couple of times in American history have two senators been able to win the presidency together. Although, the last time two senators competing for the nomination were on the ticket together, they won. In 1960, another JFK, John Kennedy, chose Texas Sen. Lyndon Johnson to be on the ticket and the two slipped by then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., another Mass. senator, in a squeaker of a contest.

This November, the election will be another close one.

With the unpopular war raging on and the economy sputtering, most Democrats and independents seem energized with the prospect of changing direction. For months the angry mantra has been, "anyone but Bush," or ABB. But despite this anger, Kerry has been unable to gain ground on the incumbent. Most of the blame for this can be put on Kerry's spotty political record and flip-flopping on numerous issues.

Both Bush and Kerry are essentially in a dead-heat, with minor third party and independent candidates earning small fractions of the vote. The election, the experts say, will come down to a handful of states. But, if Kerry can hold onto the states Vice President Al Gore won in 2000 and possibly pick up Edwards' home state of North Carolina, Bush will lose the election, with or without the state of Florida.

In the end, that is probably why John Edwards was picked and it was a good choice.

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