Wednesday, February 18, 2004

An Edwards "Win"? Why is this a win for Edwards, who made it within 6 points of Kerry in Wisconsin? Is it just beating expectations? No, there's more. John Ellis says it succinctly:
It's important to remember that Senator Kerry is viewed from within his campaign pretty much the same way he is viewed by Mickey Kaus and Ellisblog. They think he's a stiff! They were surprised that he won Iowa (they thought the Edwards surge would catch them there) and they were amazed that he won New Hampshire more or less without a fight. And they've been stunned that the others have basically let him keep on winning. What they dread most of all is negative momentum, because (let's face it) the candidate has no strong base of support within the party. They're only for him because he's winning. Once he starts losing, he's a loser.
(Ellis's emphasis, by the way.) When "electable" is the watchword, the last thing you want to do is trend downward. And Kerry's glass jaw is that he's the "good enough" candidate. He'll do in a pinch; he's the biggest name. But who could blame primary voters for having a wandering eye?

Wouldn't it be amusing to see yet a third "frontrunner" in this race? Now, I doubt that Edwards can pull it off. A lot of the establishment held their money close during the Dean episode. Once Kerry knocked off Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire, that money loosened up and began to flow Kerry's way. We hear a lot about buyer's remorse; an equal phenomenon is buyer's rationalization, the way we spin ourselves that we really did make the right choice, get the best deal, etc. Thus, I think the non-Clinton establishment of the party is happy enough with Kerry and is unlikely to abandon that support, particularly in the establishment (and delegate-rich) liberal states of New York and California. Back to Ellis:

So the Kerry campaign has to kill this Edwards thing now. That's why they stepped on Edwards's speech last night. That's why Ellisblog thinks they will go negative on Edwards quickly. Because no one in the Democratic Party harbors any deep affection for Senator Kerry, negative momentum can kill his candidacy. Given that reality, the way for Kerry to win (for sure) is to get ugly, fast.
I was thinking, similarly, that Kerry has to win a convincing Super Tuesday; he doesn't want to limp this thing along. I'm not convinced, though, that going negative on Edwards will work. This week was an abberation, with an almost-scandal checking Kerry's stride -- but he survived. If I were advising him, I'd be the stay-the-course voice. Look at what going negative did to Gephardt and Dean in Iowa. Wisconsin is a small, oddball state. Leverage the establishment instead, and be willing to cede some eccentric heartland states to Edwards. Win California. Win New York. Win Maryland and Ohio. Then spend March 3rd in your home state holding nearly enough delegates for a first ballot nomination.

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