JOHN EDWARDS? MAYBE
I haven't made my mind up about John Edwards. I liked him when I first met him in the 2003 and, until Howard Dean came along, I was thinking Edwards was the best the Democrats had to offer. By the time Dean dropped out of the race it was time for the California primary and I had no problem voting for Edwards. But I still don't completely trust him. I mean it isn't like the kind of deep distrust I feel for ruthless, unblinking pathological liars like Bush, Lieberman Cheney and McCain. I'm not even certain Edwards is as untrustworthy as political animals like Clinton, Biden, Obama, and Kerry.
I was pissed that Edwards allowed a big pussy and careerist pol like Kerry to push him around and keep him from challenging Bush's stolen 2004 election-- as though Kerry owned the millions and millions of votes against our country's headlong rush towards fascism. And I was pissed off last summer when Edwards lamely allowed his name to be used by the Rahm Emanuel forces seeking to shape a less progressive Democratic team that would be challenging Republicans in the congressional races. On the other hand, I was happy to see Edwards respond to grassroots anger and immediately revisit his endorsements and add an Emanuel bete noir from North Carolina, Larry Kissell. And I liked the straightforward, hell-with-political-calculations approach Edwards took to the Murtha-Hoyer dust-up (endorsing Murtha's Quixotic bid).
So I'm still undecided here. I have a feeling his populism is genuine and that he really does mean what he says about two Americas and that a President Edwards would work hard and effectively to start the long and difficult process of cleaning up after the criminal clique that has held our nation in thrall for the last 6 years. So I'll be watching closely and keeping an open mind, maybe even cheering John Edwards on a little.
One of my friends, Bob Geiger seems to feel Edwards' announcement today had a far greater significance than anyone else has given it, beyond the drama of announcing in the backyard of a Katrina victim in the 9th ward and beyond his clear and unambiguous mea culpa regarding his 2002 pro-war vote in the Senate. (He called it "a mistake" and explained that "we need to reject this McCain doctrine of surging troops and escalating the war in Iraq. We need to make clear we're going to leave and we need to start leaving Iraq.")
But more than anything, Edwards announcing so early and, more importantly, the way he's entered the race has changed the entire landscape for aspiring Democratic nominees.
For Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich-- the only other declared candidates at the moment-- Edwards is setting a standard for energy and relevance that they will either equal or drop quickly from the radar screen, as Edwards attracts all of the early support and media attention.
For Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), Joe Biden (D-DE), John Kerry (D-MA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT), along with General Wesley Clark and Governor Bill Richardson, the sheer magnetism and established support that Edwards brings so early, forces them to either declare their intentions as well or risk losing support to the former North Carolina Senator with every passing week.
And why exactly would I say something like that when we're not even out of 2006?
To begin with, Americans are bone-tired of disliking and disrespecting their president and, I believe, are unusually anxious to begin the presidential season to, if nothing else, give them the feeling that a change is coming sooner than later. People hungered for a change in the Congress and made it happen-- now that strong desire to take out the trash moves to the executive branch of government.
Second, Edwards is starting his campaign in an interesting way by making it not about him personally, but about the problems of the world, the loss of global American prestige, our domestic strife and the extent to which his campaign is about getting people to make change now and not wait for the actions of a newly-elected president.
"We want people in this campaign to actually take action now, not later, not after the next election," said Edwards this morning. "Instead of staying home and complaining, we're asking Americans to help."
Finally, many people, including yours truly, believed in hindsight that Edwards would have defeated Bush in 2004 had he been at the top of the Democratic ticket. Edwards was undeniably a more engaging personality than John Kerry and with so much of the vote driven by sheer disgust with Bush, Edwards would have picked up Kerry's 49 percent of the vote and then some based purely on the likeability factor -- that's not the way a president should be chosen but, in our country, it just is.
UPDATE: RESULTS ARE IN... ALREADY?
No, I'm kidding, But the American Research Group (ARG) just released polling data for the early primary/caucus states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Predictably, Clinton is ahread in each state. Edwards is coming up on her in Iowa (beating out Vilsack) and his native South Carolina. Obama is #2 in Nevada and New Hampshire. No one else-- including Kerry, Biden and Clark-- breaks out of single digits... anywhere. Jonathan Singer has all the numbers at MyDD, including the Republican numbers. Giuliani's ahead in Iowa and Nevada and McCain is ahead in South Carolina and New Hampshire (with McCain #2 where Giulini is #1 and Giuliani #2 where McCain is #1). Gingrich is #3 in every state. No one else is into double digits in any state. No one cares about Mitt Romney anywhere, not even Nevada where there are loads of Mormans or in New Hampshire, which is in the Boston media market.