My horse, Dick Gephardt, quietly exited the race for thepresidency after a poor showing at the Iowa Caucus.
Now I’m forced to switch my endorsement to the next bestcandidate: John Edwards.
Democrats all over the country are still bitter about the 2000elections when Al Gore won the popular vote and a friendly SupremeCourt handed the presidency to George W. Bush. In what notablecolumnist Molly Ivins calls an “unusual display ofunity” the Democratic Party is getting behind whomever theythink can beat Bush.
That man is the North Carolina Senator John Edwards.
First of all, Edwards is squeaky clean. He’s almost voidof the campaign trail-blunders that characterize the efforts ofHoward Dean and John Kerry. Dean surprisingly lost Iowa by a longshot. The speech he gave to reassure his supporters, whether or notit was indicative of passion or anger, gave the impression that heis an angry man and sore loser. While that may or may not be thecase, as I’ve never met the guy, it’s all aboutperception and not reality in an election year.
Dean also made some inadvertently offensive statements referringto the Confederate Flag. Again, no matter his real stance on theissues, this may undermine his support among blacks in key southernswing states.
Kerry has his own issues, his use of profanity in a recentRolling Stone interview will not bode well with older voters, whowe all know come to the polls in drovesn as indeed they should.
Edwards is the nice guy with the southern drawl and amiablepersonality. That makes him electable because he can beat Bush athis own game: Edwards scores high on the “charm”index.
Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean have the personality of aChihuahua. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Gen. Wesley Clark combinedhave the personality of my left work boot.
Again, these are all good candidates but public perception iskey to a successful campaign.
Once the campaign trail winds through the South, and Edwardsgets a little more camera time, we’ll see the pundits talkingmore and more about him. At 50, he looks about 35. His Southern—but not too southern— drawl is disarming as well; itbuilds trust, which is huge in our party in the post-Clintondays.
Superstitiously speaking, the two other most likely DemocraticNominees, Kerry and Dean, are both New England Democrats.They’re from Massachusetts and Vermont, respectively.Edwards; on the other hand, was born in South Carolina and grew upin North Carolina.
Most of us are too young to remember but the last time wenominated a Massachusetts Democrat to run against a Bush, we gotour butts handed to us. Michael Dukakis was his name, and in theevent of that Kerry gets the nomination, it’s going to belike 1988 all over again, only with a different Democrat and adifferent Bush.
The similarities between Dukakis and Kerry are frightening; Ican hear the cracks on Leno already.
However, the last three times we pitted a Southern Democratagainst a Republican, we beat them. It was only this last time thatAl Gore won but, for only the fourth time in history, didn’ttake office.
Practically speaking, Edwards is the closest representation ofmost of us, and America.
He comes from a working-class background where his dad was amill-worker. He put himself through college and law school andeventually was elected to the U.S. Senate. What really hits homewith me is the fact that he’s the only one of the sevenDemocratic candidates that went to a public university for bothundergraduate and graduate school. He received his bachelor’sdegree from North Carolina State and his law degree from theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
If we are going to elect a guy to sign legislation about fundingfor student grants and loans, shouldn’t he have somefirst-hand experience in the public university system?
Politicians in this country have become far too detached fromthe plight of ordinary citizens like you and I, Edwards is as leastone step closer.
Whether or not you agree with my pick or not is irrelevant,it’s more important that you go to your precinct’scaucus that Saturday. It lasts about an hour and anyone who’sa registered voter can participate, you may even get picked as adelegate to represent your candidate at the convention.
Look at it this way: it’s either one Saturday out of yourlife or four more years of Bush.