Monday, January 14, 2008

Edwards the King (or Queen) Maker?

According to a new poll released today, the gleeful reports of Hillary Clinton's imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated. The nationwide poll, taken Jan. 9-12 for CBS News and the New York Times, shows that Clinton is still the clear Democratic favorite at 42 percent -- down just 2 percent (within the poll's margin of error) since December and the debacle in Iowa. Barack Obama's numbers have not moved a millimeter at 27 percent, and John Edwards has also held steady as a rock at 11 percent. Inexplicably, Dennis Kucinich's numbers have gone up from 2 percent to a whopping 4 percent; his wife will be thrilled. A fair amount of Dems are still undecided, folks.

But, as has been pounded into our heads ad nauseum, the party nomination is not a nationwide process but rather a war of attrition, state by state. Obama is the current beneficiary of that state of affairs, given the fact that he is handily ahead of Hillary by 13 percent in anticipation of the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary, and the two frontrunners seem to be neck in neck for the Nevada caucuses coming up on Jan. 29.

But what about John Edwards? He won South Carolina in 2004, forever after pissing off John Kerry. However, this time around the home-state boy is only polling marginally better in South Carolina than he is nationally... about 13 percent, give or take. So now what? There is a lot of talk these days about the Edwards Factor -- which way would his supporters break were Edwards to pull out of the race? That 11 percent of faithful followers he has nationally, and the respectable numbers he draws in the primaries and caucuses, could make the difference for either Clinton or Obama -- and both camps know it.

Enter the intriguing notion of Edwards as King -- or Queen -- maker. Not a bad role if you can't get the crown yourself. The potential of Edwards conceding graciously and making an endorsement is more than a little intriguing. Could it be a deciding factor in the race, given the rather glaring gap between the national numbers and the state-by-state trench warfare ahead? Such an endorsement would certainly be far more influential than Kerry's spiteful defection last week. Edwards says he is in it for the long haul, for a nationwide campaign. Me, I wish he had a better chance -- I have tremendous respect for the man. He's tough, he's smart, and he actually seems to genuinely care about folks with modest bank accounts and real life troubles. But he's not getting traction amidst the Clinton din or the Obama furor. So now what? Edwards is a bit like a bull terrier with a bone -- he just can't seem to let go. And I get it, John. I do. You'd be a good president, you have a vision, and you actually give a crap about the working man -- not to mention that you and your family have sacrificed a lot to go after the brass ring. But the wind doesn't seem to be blowing your way. What's the next best thing -- how else could you have an enormous impact on the process and perhaps still see elements of your vision become reality? Maybe its time to make a choice -- for yourself, your party and your country -- and start sipping on some sweet lemonade. Who knows what kind of cabinet doors it may open.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention the other half of the poll. In the Republican race, John McCain seems back in the role he is least comfortable with -- front runner. McCain is up an eye popping 26 points since December, leading all Republicans with 33 percent. The Straight Talk Express has displaced the plummeting Rudy Giuliani, who's down more than 12 percent, and Mitt Romney, who's down 8 points. Lots of us have wondered whether the party rank and file would warm up to the Maverick again, but in this poll he now leads among self-described conservatives as well as moderates. Actually, I think McCain’s improving fortunes are a result of a massive reality check on the part of Republican primary voters, who are asking themselves that age old question: "who's the most electable in November," which can be rephrased as, "who can save us from Hillary?" In the current poll, 41 percent of Republicans think McCain's the man to take out the wicked witch of the Democrats -- sorry Rudy, only 12 percent think you're the guy most likely to steal her broom. But the fat lady has not even begun to sing on this one, folks, because more than 70 percent of Republican voters say they could still change their minds, and less than half strongly support their candidates.

1 comment:

majestic said...

I love this blog. It is a fun read and insightful too!

As for Edwards...He is a good guy that isn't going to get the nomination. And good guys that truly care about their party should consider the consequences of staying in a race, especially one that they can't win.

I think the longer he stays in the race, the less likely we are to nominate the first black president of the US.

As for the republicans...They just don't have any compelling candidates.

I am waiting to see what Bloomberg does. If he jumps into the race, the Bloomberg factor could hurt the dems more than the republicans.