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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Democratic nomination update

So, how much will support for Kucinich jump now that Dean too has left the race?

Kidding aside, it seems as if something was happening in Wisconsin over the last few days of the campaign making the nomination contest now a 2-man race between John Kerry and John Edwards.

The Zogby poll on election eve had predicted Kerry-Dean-Edwards to finich with these percentages: 47-23-20. That turned out to be significantly off as Kerry got "only" 40%, Edwards finished a strong second with 34%, and Dean trailed with only 18%. Kucinich got 3% and Sharpton 2%.

As in Iowa, a major newspaper (the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) endorsement at the last minute, combined with a good performance in the last debate, may well have influenced some voters to select Edwards. Also, independents (and maybe even Republicans) could have changed the face of the electorate and thereby proved the pollsters wrong.

It's also possible that muddy rumors about Kerry are starting to have an effect on the portion of the voting pool that wants him because of his "electability."

Next Tuesday, voters in Hawaii, Idaho and Utah go to the polls, followed on Super Tuesday, March 2, by California, NY, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards win either (or both) of Idaho and Utah, but I've seen no polling data. Figure Kerry to sweep the four New England states on Super Tuesday.

Thus, Edwards must win Georgia, of course, but he also needs to start accumulating delegates if he is to have any hope (however remote) of stopping Kerry. That means he's got to win Ohio plus one other major state.

I mention Ohio because Edwards has been focusing a great deal on lost jobs and the harms of free trade. He's anti-NAFTA, anti-WTO, etc. Apparently, despite the fact that Kerry voted for these accords, he too is starting to talk about their failings.

This is a populist electoral strategy that might play well in the rust belt states that will figure quite prominently in the November election. However, it's not necessarily an issue that will play well in NY (well, maybe upstate) or California or Maryland. I'm not certain about what will play well in Minnesota.

Edwards, like most of the other candidates, has been selling his biography on the campaign trail. It is appealling on some levels: Edwards is the son of a millworker who became the first person in his family to graduate from college -- who then became a trial lawyer fighting corporate America.

With just a little tweaking, Edwards could perhaps spin this into a Washington outsider campaign, since those historically fare well. He has only been in the Senate for four years and has already announced he is not seeking reelection for that seat.

The Bush campaign is already trying to connect Kerry to various special interests, and his long tenure in the Senate makes him "of DC" by default. This might be an appeal that would work in the West next week and in Minnesota the week after.

In sum, the race is narrowing, but it remains interesting. I'm still embracing my prediction from September 12, 2003:
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.
With all the discussion of a Kerry/Edwards ticket, this prediction is starting to look good.

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is a more likely choice, according to well-known pundit Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, because the Dems need to pick someone who will help in the rust belt. It's geography vs. political ideas and I think Edwards is proving his mettle on the national campaign trail.

Update: Charlie Rose tonight has Mark Halperin, Political Director of ABC News and Ronald Brownstein of The Los Angeles Times. Both reject Edwards as Veep because they think Kerry will pick someone who can help win a swing state -- but they are focusing completely on geography.

The message Edwards is pushing is perfect for the rust belt swing states and its incredible these political analysts cannot see this. So what if Edwards can't help the Dems win North Carolina? He can help win Ohio, Pennsylvania and perhaps other states.

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