NRO: Edwards is the New Anti-Hillary
by mbair, Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 04:44:15 AM EDT
Even the enemy admits: "Edwards a threat to Hillary!" Much has been made of the new schedule recommendations to the DNC from last weekend all over the blogosphere. They benefit Edwards to a surprising degree, but NRO has officially launched a new meme. I know, I know - NRO friend or foe? However, the analysis by Ryan Lizza is pretty consistent with what we've been saying here this week. The article is also behind a firewall, so you won't read it unless you pay for it. The sacrifices I make for the cause...
Edwards is the anti-Hillary of 2008. Although the article states that we get one of these anti-Hillary designees every six months or so, the Edwards "ascendancy" is for real and I think Edwards deserves the laurel - or laurels, whatever.
Follow me below the fold to discuss the NRO story.
Why John Edwards may be Hillary Clinton's greatest threat in 2008, subscription only - if you don't want to buy it then I don't blame you.
THE ASCENDANT CANDIDACY OF JOHN EDWARDSThis week I wrote a diary discussing the National Journal article about Edwards and his strategy in the 2008 race: National Journal: Where's Edwards?. Marc Ambinder describes how Edwards, unlike other prospective candidates - save Feingold, is the only one positioning himself to take Hillary on the offense. He states that other candidates are waiting for her to "trip up" or "stumble" while Edwards wants to have a discussion about her core values and positions. Edwards has positioned himself well to contrast his message and platform with the centrist agenda that Hillary is running on called the "American Dream Initiative". Edwards wants to take the issue of moderation on positions vis a vis the DLC in the Democratic party out to the voters. No more wiggle words, guys. Give us a Dem with some "courage and strength and backbone."
By Ryan Lizza
It's now official: John Edwards is the new anti-Hillary. If you're not familiar with the term, "the anti-Hillary" is the shorthand used by political junkies to describe the Democratic candidate who will inevitably emerge as the principal alternative to Hillary Clinton, whose money and star power make her the dominant force in Democratic presidential politics...
Edwards's turn as the anti-Hillary has been building through the summer. First, there was the news last month that he was number one in The Des Moines Register's poll of likely 2008 presidential candidates, besting Clinton by four points. Political observers took notice and saw a savvy strategy at work: While shunning the Beltway press, Edwards had been moving around the country assiduously courting labor unions and quietly repudiating his support for the war in Iraq. His anti-Hillary bona fides were sealed on Saturday, when a Democratic National Committee (DNC) panel approved a plan to bookend the New Hampshire primary with contests in Nevada and South Carolina, creating a schedule that seems tailored to Edwards's strengths.
Kos wrote a front-pager that same day discussing a possible outcome of the new schedule: 2008 calendar: Edwards the HUGE winner. The new schedule looks like this, if the RBC recommendation is accepted and NH and IA accept the DNC's decision:
- Iowa (caucus): 1/14
- Nevada (caucus): 1/19
- NH (primary): 1/22
- SC (primary): 1/29
We get a different perspective today from Lizza on the new schedule and it's impact on the 2008 race.
IowaPlus, Edwards never left Iowa after 2004. Party bigwigs locked him out when Christy Vilsack came out for Kerry and Harkin came out for Dean and he's been building and building on the ground ever since. He learned what it takes to win and he's been putting it together ever since Kerry decided to bail out on election night 2004 for fear he'd be called a "sore loser". Source: Some Might Call It Treason: An Open Letter to Salon
The front-loading of the process--there will be four contests in 15 days--may create so much momentum for the victor in Iowa that he or she wraps up the nomination before any of the other 46 states get to vote. Edwards's strength in Iowa rests on a unique mix of assets that no other candidate can currently match: He has both high positives and low negatives--in other words, lots of friends and few enemies. An unknown candidate like Warner has neither, and a too-well-known candidate like Clinton has both. The reason for Edwards's healthy political profile is that he surged into second place in Iowa in 2004 during the final week of the campaign and was thus never a target of negative campaigning. This time around, he will be hit early and often, but he will start the race from an enviable position.
Also, if Edwards starts getting hammered as the front-runner in Iowa, I don't think that'll go over too well. He's well liked in the state, "Johnny's just like us, he understands what it's like." The high favorability ratings that he enjoys are his to maintain. The number one reason that the DMR gave for their endorsement of Edwards in 2004? He ran a positive campaign on the issues. So what happens when the negative ads start flying? What happens when the anonymous "staffer" quotes start appearing in the press day after miserable day in the lead up to the vote?
I'll tell you what happens, that strategy backfires that's what. That is indeed an enviable position to be in. Edwards, unlike the other candidates in the field, controls his own destiny in Iowa. That includes Hillary if Edwards's numbers hold.
Back to the story...
NevadaThe union story will be a big one next time around. Nevada was chosen specifically to give unions, an important Democratic constituency, a bigger say in the early rounds of voting. In 2004 unions were all over the map. SEIU endorsed Dean, Kerry got AFL-CIO, Gephardt was also a labor favorite and Edwards got UNITE. But the landscape has changed since then. Edwards must be considered the front-runner for labor support because of his work with the service unions in particular. He has said:
Edwards seems to be the candidate making the greatest strides with the labor movement. It all started in 2004 when, trying to differentiate himself from John Kerry after the Iowa caucuses, Edwards attacked Kerry's stance on free trade and tried to scrape together some union backing. Only one union supported Edwards in that short, quixotic bid to overthrow Kerry: the textile union UNITE, which had supported him in his 1998 Senate bid in North Carolina. It has continued to be an important alliance.
Edwards's success with unions, one of the institutional pillars of Clinton's campaign, has started to rattle Hillaryland. In March, when Change to Win, the new labor umbrella group that includes UNITE HERE and several other large unions, held a convention in Las Vegas, only one prospective 2008 candidate spoke to the group: Edwards. But Hillary Clinton happened to have a friend in town as well: Bill. According to a labor source in Nevada, Clinton's husband flew in and met secretly with seven union presidents at the Change to Win convention. His message: Don't commit to anyone, and give Hillary a fighting chance. A spokesman for Bill Clinton confirmed the meeting took place but says 2008 wasn't discussed.
- "unions are the best anti-poverty program ever invented."
- "if a Republican can join the Republican party by signing his name to a card then every worker in American should be able to join a union by signing their name to a card."
- "just as the industrial unions built the middle-class of the 20th century, so too the service unions can build the middle class of this century."
Edwards has also been campaigning for "Hotel Workers Rising Tour" since last year. In February he headlined a tour with Danny Glover. They went to San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Boston. Edwards even went to Honolulu last month to do the same. They blurb him on their website, check it out. There are 60,000 UNITE members in Las Vegas, that's where all the votes come from in the state, by the way. Who is going to be their candidate come 2008? No one can predict, certainly not me, but you've got to think that this message and this work that Edwards is doing now will pay off in the caucus.
Back to the story...
South CarolinaAnd he won it (45 - 30) when the exit polls indicated that a majority of Democratic primary voters wanted an electable candidate. That candidate was emerging as Kerry by the time SC rolled around because he had won IA and NH in a complete reversal of his poll position in 2004.
Clinton's firewall, if she is defeated in an early contest, is South Carolina, where she is counting on the Clinton name to help her among African-American voters, who make up about half of the Democratic primary electorate. But Edwards was born in the state, and his anti-poverty pitch seems in tune with voters there. He also won the South Carolina primary by 15 points in 2004.
I have to like Edwards in this anti-Hillary position, but I think it's more than just the flavor of the month thing. I think Edwards has earned his way to the spot by going out and working core Democratic values and constituencies hard. He flies all over the place to support the grassroots trying to raise the minimum wage at the state level. He's even going to Montana next month, not a source of reliable Democratic electoral votes, to bring some star power to the grassroots efforts out there. And they got a lot of grass in Montana, the kind that cows eat.
He hasn't been playing the beltway game. He hasn't been "shaking the trees" for money, but as a trial lawyer he can raise the millions that he'll need in a heartbeat. He's out with real people everyday, vested in their interests and concerns. He attends and headlines fundraisers for other candidates instead of working his donor list and cutting checks from his PAC. So far this year he's raked in 6.5 million for down ballot candidates, second only to Hillary at about a million more. Edwards has just announced on his blog that he'll let you vote on the Congressional candidates that he does one of these fundraisers for; you have until August 4.
If we see another anti-Hillary candidate emerge by the first of the year, let's apply the same test that Edwards currently meets.
- Does the candidate have voter support? Check, the DMR poll out of Iowa.
- Can the candidate raise enough money to contend? Check, he's a trial lawyer and he's currently doing it for other candidates.
- Has the candidate built a real network of supporters out on the ground where organization and dedicated warm bodies matter? Check, the effort nationwide to raise the minimum wage and the union work.
- Does the candidate have big ideas and a message that inspires people? Check, check, check. Poverty; Universal health care; predatory lenders; college for everyone; unions for all workers; fairness, hope and opportunity for the middle-class and a morality frame in his message that is unequaled in the field.