Democrats Need John Edwards to be Their Mike Huckabee: Part 1

While Republican frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani attack each other, conservative populist Mike Huckabee seems to be surging to the front of the Republican pack.

Likewise, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama bash each other, and the media tries to turn the Democratic primaries into a two-person race, Democrats need progressive populist John Edwards to split the double team to win Iowa and place well in New Hampshire, thus creating at least a 3-way race.

Edwards is both the most electable Democratic candidate, and the President most likely to lead the fundamental changes the country and the world so desperately need after 8 years of the worst Presidency in American history.

ELECTABILITY

America and the world cannot afford another four years of a Republican presidency which would likely result in further inaction on global warming until the planet is past the tipping point; permanent bases in Iraq and the potential of preemptive war against Iran; domestic policies that favor corporate special interests and neglect the poor and middle class; and the appointment of 3 more young right wing conservatives on the Supreme Court who will serve for a generation.

It is therefore essential that Democrats nominate the candidate with the best chance of both winning the Presidency and increasing Democratic majorities in Congress. Both polls and political common sense show that candidate to be John Edwards.

According to a CNN poll released December 11, Edwards is clearly the strongest Democratic candidate, Clinton the weakest, with Obama somewhere in between. .He is the only Democrat who beats all 4 leading Republicans--Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Huckabee. Edwards beats McCain by 8 points, 52%-44%. McCain actually beats Clinton 50%-48% and ties Obama 48%-48%.

The CNN poll shows Edwards beating Giuliani by 9 points, Obama winning by 7 points and Clinton edging Giuliani by only 6 points. Against Romney, it's Edwards by 22 points, Obama by 13 points and Clinton by 11 points. Against Huckabee, it's Edwards by 25 points, Obama by 15 points and Clinton by11 points. In other words, Edwards outpolls Clinton against the leading Republicans by anywhere from 3 points to 13 points and outpolls Obama by anywhere from 2 points to 10 points.

A November 26th Zogby Poll shows a Clinton nomination to be an even scarier proposition, with Hillary losing to every leading Republican. McCain would beat her by 42%-38%, Giuliani by 43%-40%, Romney by 43%-40%, Huckabee by 44%-40% and Thompson by 44%-40%.

In addition, Hillary has the highest "unfavorable" ratings of any presidential candidate in polling history at this stage of the race, with the USA/Gallup Poll over the past two years showing her "unfavorable" ratings ranging from 40%-52% and currently running at about 45%. With nearly half the voters viewing Hillary unfavorably, her chances of winning are substantially decreased.

Moreover, the Democratic nominee needs to win Electoral Votes in states carried by Bush in 2000 and 2004. It's hard to think of states where Hillary could do that. Indeed it's not so hard envision Hillary losing a few swing states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey that were won by Gore and Kerry, particularly if the Republican nominee is Giuliani or a resurgent McCain. Missouri House minority whip Connie Johnson warned, "If Hillary comes to the state of Missouri, we can write it off."

In addition, in a close race, turnout is key. Although the Republican base is not necessarily excited about its field of candidates and some might stay home, hatred of Hillary is likely to motivate the Republican base and guarantee that it will show up at the polls in large numbers. At the same time, Hillary is unpopular with the activist progressive base of the Democratic Party, leading to a possible drop in energy from the very Democrats who need to be mobilized to work the hardest for a Democratic victory.

A Democratic President will also need increased majorities in the House and particularly the Senate to bring meaningful change after '08. Hillary could hurt Democratic chances in close Congressional races in generally red states. Given her high negatives, many local and congressional Democratic candidates would find it necessary to distance themselves from a Clinton candidacy. Indiana Democratic state Rep. Dave Crooks stated, "I'm not sure if (a Clinton candidacy) would be fatal in Indiana, but she would be a drag". A Democratic Senate candidate in a battleground state told Guy Sapperstein, past President of the Sierra Club, "I can tell you who would hurt me the most--Hillary Clinton. She has 35-40 percent of the voters in my state who never would vote for her under any circumstances, and she's no one's second choice."

John Edwards, however, can campaign almost anywhere in America. As even conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks acknowledged, "No one else can get out of a bus in places like Pocahontas, Iowa, and bond with the farmers, nurses and hairstylists the way he can. No one else comes from their ranks the way he does." As a politically populist but socially moderate rural southerner, it's not hard to see Edwards winning states that went for Bush in 2000 or 2004 but went for another small town Southerner, Bill Clinton in 2000 or 2004, including border states like West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri, mountain states like New Mexico, Arizona, Montana and Nevada, and the biggest swing states of all, Florida and Ohio. By speaking to their economic hope instead of their fears, while sharing a common cultural heritage, Edwards stands the best chance of winning back white working class "Reagan Democrats". One can even conceive of an Edwards Electoral College landslide accompanied by big Democratic pick-ups in the House and Senate.

By contrast, an Obama candidacy is a bit more unpredictable. Although he is less polarizing than Clinton and has shown some ability to pick up independents and even some Republicans, it's hard to tell how his inexperience would play out over the course of a long campaign. He has made a number of rookie mistakes in the Democratic primaries and has been an inconsistent campaigner, alternating between inspirational speeches and more emotionally remote appearances, particularly in the debates. Despite his claims of representing a new type of politics, he has sometimes pandered, adopting the Republican frame of a social security "crisis". Edwards, on the other hand, has been seasoned by his experience with a previous national race and is rarely off his game. While a Giuliani, Romney, or Huckabee would clearly try to contrast their experience against Obama's lack thereof, that argument would carry less weight against Edwards.

In sum, to nominate Clinton is to is play Russian Roulette with the Presidency and to risk losing key House and Senate races in red and purple states. Obama's candidacy is a bit more unpredictable. Edwards is the Democrat with the best chance of convincingly winning the Presidency, carrying large Democratic Senate and House majorities on his coattails, and thus having the best chance of enacting major reform after the '08 elections

End of Part 1
Coming in Part 2: Why Edwards Would Be The Best President Among The Leading Democratic Contenders