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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Biden: Thoughts on Electability

DECEMBER 31, 2007




In the closing days of this race for the Democratic nomination for President, voters and reporters alike have heard former Sen. John Edwards make the same electability case over and over again. Edwards argues that with his southern roots he can compete in more states than any other Democratic candidate in the general election.

Last week in New Hampshire, Edwards said: “I think people want someone they know can win in the general election. I think the evidence is overwhelming that I’m very strong, the strongest general election data. . . . I’m the one Democrat who has won in a Red State, who can go into any place in America and be successful.”

However, the evidence that Edwards is more electable is at best thin and is probably misleading.
The first question mark is that Edwards was unlikely to hold onto to his North Carolina Senate seat in 2003 when he decided not to run for re-election. In short, if John Edwards is so electable, why couldn’t he be re-elected in his home state?

Indeed, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report noted at the time, “Edwards is not that strong.” [The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), 2/16/03] Research 2000’s poll for the Raleigh News and Observer taken from July 13-16, 2003 showed that Edwards’s re-election number stood at 34 percent. In that same poll, only 45 percent of North Carolinians approved of Edwards’s job as their junior Senator.

Edwards fared no better as the Democratic Party’s Vice Presidential candidate in 2004. After being selected as John Kerry’s running mate, Edwards said, “I think we will be very competitive in the South, particularly in those states in which national Democrats need to be competitive to be successful.” [Associated Press, 7/10/04] Unfortunately, Edwards failed to carry his home state. Edwards lost his home county—Moore County—by more than eleven thousand votes, 24,714 to 13,555. He also lost his hometown by more than 300 votes, 506 to 191.

At the end of the day, despite repeated assurances, Kerry-Edwards also failed to win a single southern state. So it’s understandable that this time around, even John Edwards’s own people are acknowledging his vulnerability: Rob Tully, a former state party chairman and Edwards backer, said “if he doesn't win Iowa or come very close this time, ‘we're done.’” [USA TODAY, 12/12/07]

In addition, there are serious doubts about Edwards’ message. A recent Edwards ad asserts, “It’s time to tell the truth. These big corporations and their greed, they are stealing your children’s future. We will never change this country unless we are willing to take those people on.” Some are arguing that this will not go over well with general election voters. In a column, respected political analyst Stuart Rothenberg wrote, "Edwards certainly would dispute that there is an inherent contradiction between his populist rhetoric and his alleged middle class appeal. But his approach to problems is likely to frighten many voters, including most middle class Americans and virtually all Republicans." [The Rothenberg Political Report, 12/31/07]

So who has what it takes to carry the southern vote? Well, with so much riding on his southern electability argument, “native son” John Edwards actually fares only 4 points ahead of Joe Biden in the most recent Insider Advantage poll out of South Carolina. And if one thing is certain in the 2008 race, it’s that no Democrat will win using the same 20-plus-five strategy that has failed in the last two elections. In this general election, Joe Biden has set a 15-18 red state strategy, which not only sets him apart from the top tier, but gives him the most realistic shot at victory next November.

Furthermore, Joe Biden has historically and consistently won by large margins. In 1972, Joe Biden staged a huge upset, unseating two-term Sen. Caleb Boggs, a popular former congressman and governor. Since then, Joe Biden has consistently won re-election by over 15 percentage points, and always garnering more than 57 percent of the vote.

Sen. Biden’s victories have also come during times of strong Republican presence in the Delaware, in the form of both a Republican Senator (William Roth) and Republican Governors (du Pont, Castle and Wolf). Rep. Mike Castle consistently wins statewide, earning 57 percent in the last election. The Delaware State House has split leadership, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans controlling the House.

These are the facts.

Wishing you all a happy and thoughtful New Year. Larry

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