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Friday, September 12, 2003

America's next President?

The US presidential election is still 14 months away. However, the past week has been quite interesting for those who follow politics closely. I've already been talking about some of the incumbent's problems, so let me turn today to the Democrats.

I'm not sure which of these developments will turn out to be the most important in the long haul, but let me mention two.

First, John Edwards of North Carolina announced that he will not seek re-election in the Senate. To many observers, this probably seems totally irrational. After all, Joe Lieberman sought to retain his seat in 2000, why wouldn't Edwards do the same as a hedge against a failed national campaign? According to the AP, North Carolina election law would allow Edwards to pursue both elected positions simultaneously.

I'm guessing Edwards is trying to signal a very strong commitment to the national election. Even if he's really running for Vice President, this allows him to devote complete attention to the task. As I argue below, he's going to have to work hard, because I think the odds are against him becoming the presidential nominee.

Still, I think Edwards's prospects for a space on the national ticket are going to look much better than they do now by next February. If Howard Dean holds his lead in the latest Iowa polls, Richard Gephardt has basically already said he'll quit the race. Gephardt won Iowa in 1988 and has to win that midwestern state's caucuses.

Then, if Dean wins New Hampshire, John Kerry is in big trouble and Joe Lieberman could be too.

So, by January 30, the Democratic field might be down to Dean, Edwards, Bob Graham, Carol Moseley-Braun, Al Sharpton, and Dennis Kucinich. On February 3, these states have primaries or caucuses: Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico (the only caucuses on this date), Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

A moderate is going to do well in Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina -- and could even win all 3 of those states.

Much could still change by early February -- for example Wesley Clark could be the one winning those states. Or Lieberman might still be in the race, but I frankly doubt he's going to do very well. That means either Graham or Edwards stand a good chance of winning some of these states.

On February 10, Tennessee and Virginia also vote in primaries. So that means Edwards might have 5 primary victories going into Super Tuesday (March 2).

However, I predict that Dean (or perhaps Kerry if the Doc stumbles between now and Iowa/New Hampshire) will virtually seal up the nomination on that date with wins in New York, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, etc.

Second, there are rumors flying around that Dean met with Clark recently to ask for his support -- and perhaps to explore the possibility of Clark taking a Vice Presidential position on a Dean ticket.

It is really way too early to speculate about this kind of stuff, but it's my blog so I'm going to do it anyway.

Clark would almost perfectly balance Dean and offer genuine foreign policy credibility. He would do for Dean what Republicans believed Cheney did for Bush in 2000. Clark has been a genuine critic of Bush foreign policy, but he's apparently a classic multilateralist who can imagine legitimate uses of force. In short, he's like Kerry, only a recently retired General who has been on CNN a lot and is from Arkansas...and was a Rhodes Scholar.

Repeat: We're talking about a smart guy who won the war over Kosovo with zero US soldier deaths, with a regular gig on CNN and a direct connect to the south?

B-I-N-G-O. We have a bingo!

Edwards is a likable southerner who could help balance a Dean ticket, but Clark seems like a much better choice. The Democrats really need to win a couple of border states like West Virginia and Arkansas. Dean's "state's rights" position on guns, combined with Clark, might just be enough to do it.

I guess that makes John Edwards a Cabinet member, January 2005. Attorney General maybe?

Update 9/17/03

daily KOS links these 2 stories. The blogger argues that Clark may well virtually ignore Iowa and New Hampshire, hoping to emerge as the "anti-Dean" in the South Carolina and Oklahoma primaries. Clark may even have timed his announcement this week to steal thunder from Edwards, who announced 9/16/03. Edwards, as I argue above, is also positioning to be the early anti-Dean.

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