Monday :: May 9, 2005

Edwards Distances Himself From 2004 As He Readies For 2008

by Steve

With John Kerry making noises about trying to recreate himself as an outsider candidate for 2008 and distance himself from the gay marriage issue, and with the mainstream media anointing Hillary already as the nominee-in-waiting, John Edwards is selling his home in the Washington area and returning to North Carolina. He is also being candid about who he blames for the Kerry/Edwards campaignís inability to take an energized Democratic base and stay ahead of an all-terror, all-the-time incumbent: itís all Mary Beth Cahillís fault.

It's traditional for out-of-work politicos to head to Harvard's Institute of Politics for genial wonk talk. It's also traditional for failed veep candidates to put major distance between themselves and their old campaign. The two customs intersected when John Edwards stopped by Cambridge last month. Over lunch, Edwards held a Q&A session with students, faculty and political bigwigs, including Kerry-Edwards campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, a visiting fellow at the institute. Edwards was asked for one lesson he'd learned from the 2004 campaign. His answer: "Don't listen to Mary Beth Cahill." The response in the room was stunned silence, observers later recalled. "No one laughed when he said it, and Mary Beth grew bright red," said one attendee. "It was very awkward."

It may be awkward, but remember that even Bob Shrum wanted to be more aggressive in responding to the Swifties than Cahill did, and Kerry sided with Cahill until it was too late.

It would be easy to dismiss Edwards as a guy who already had his fifteen minutes of fame. But that would be a mistake. The Kerry camp abandoned Edwardsís "Two Americas" message and misused Edwards from the moment they brought him aboard. It is also true that in the early polling for 2008, Edwards is the only one of the top three Democrats who runs within the margin of error to John McCain, who beats both Kerry and Clinton in head-to-head match-ups (10 points and 8 points respectively). And Edwards is the only one of the three who beats Rudy Giuliani outright.

And Edwards' campaign consultant David Axelrod is exactly the kind of non-Beltway Democratic consultant I had in mind months ago who has won at a regional level with aggression and effective media.

Sure, itís early, and yes, there will be new faces on the scene for the Democrats in 2008. But Edwards will run as the Anybody-But-Hillary alternative from the South in 2008, along with Wes Clark, and perhaps Virginia governor Mark Warner. The difference is that Edwards has been through the gauntlet once and seen how not to run a national campaign against a ruthless team of moral degenerates. And that kind of experience cannot be easily dismissed.

But Steve, heís a trial lawyer.

Yeah, but after the treatment this country will get from Bush and Cheney the next three years, even a trial lawyer can be painted as a hero in 2008. And a ticket with some combination of Edwards, Warner, and Clark would do well.

Steve :: 6:57 PM :: Comments (24) :: Digg It!