November 14, 2002
A MAN WITH A RECORD:
Earning his stripes
: As he positions himself for a White House run, Sen. John Edwards is getting his military tickets punched (Jon Ellistion, 11/06/02, Raleigh/Durham Independent Weekly)
In a room packed with N.C. Democratic Party leaders, Sen. John Edwards' reputation as the new golden boy of American politics is buffed to a bright sheen. It's Friday night, Oct. 12, and the party faithful have paid $250 a plate to attend the annual Vance-Aycock dinner and rally at Asheville's stately Grove Park Inn. At a table near the stage, the mention of Edwards, who apparently has his sights on the presidency, opens a torrent of praise.
"I love that man," coos a middle-aged woman from Asheville. Why? "He's so good looking." A local Democratic activist who owns a political sign-making company compares Edwards to a skilled quarterback, capable of looking ahead to "find the holes" that no one else sees and then moving the political football forward, so to speak. "People say he reminds them of Kennedy, of JFK," says a campaign consultant from Haywood County. "I think, and hope, that he's more like Bobby Kennedy. He was my favorite." A sheriff's candidate from Western North Carolina who's running a tough race this fall against a Republican incumbent says that Edwards "could help us deliver the South in 2004." [...]
Much of the Democratic party's electoral base will be pleased with his performance on domestic issues: The liberal political group Americans for Democratic Action gave him a 95 percent rating for his votes in 2001.
There's a reason that governors have done well in our recent presidential elections: they don't have legislative records. The GOP will take the specific votes that make up that 95% and drape it around his neck like a noose.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 14, 2002 12:52 PM
It isn't a recent phenomenon. Few senators have gone to the White House, and usually they backed in like Truman or Johnson.
You may be right about legislative records, but I have always thought it had more to do with voters (not very consciously, perhaps) preferring candidates with executive experience.
I always thought it was due to the voters not wanting to vote for anyone they knew.
Truman, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford were all legislators.
Three of whom "backed in." Four if you believe Daley elected Kennedy. Five if you believe Nixon was known more as a VP and that his time in the political wilderness made people forget he ever was a legislator.
Truman : vice-president
LBJ : vice-president
Ford : vice-president (not even elected as such)
Nixon : former vice-president who had been out of Washington for eight years before his election as president
The only one from Orrin's list who went straight from the Senate to the White House was JFK.
All were re-elected on their own though, except Ford, who nearly beat one of the vaunted governor's, and that despite Watergate. Truman even beat a Governor.
At any rate, the fact remains that the gubernatorial route to the presidency has worked only for Carter, Reagan, Clinton and W in the past fifty years.
Orrin - 4 people doesn't sound like much, but they won 6 of the 13 elections in that time (and 6 of the last 7!), compared to 1 of 13 for Senators, 2 of 13 for generals, and 4 of 13 for vice presidents.
pj--7 to 6 and it is a recent development, which is how this mess started
Relying on statistical histories isn't always the best thing -- remember before Bush 41 was elected the mantra was "no sitting vice-president had been elected to the prsidency since 1840 (Van Buren). So just because Edwards is a senator doesn't mean he's dead meat.
That said, I think his biggest obsticle is that -- judging from their attitude in the past week -- the left wing of the Democratic Party is nowhere near the "we don't care what his politics are, so long as he's electable" mode they were in 1992. Their atttude is more like 1972, 1984 and 1988, when they wanted a "true believer" and ignored what those positions in the primary races would mean in the general election. In '92, they were willing to ignore Clinton's Ricky Ray Rector execution, his Sister Solujah attack on Jesse Jackson and even his pro-NAFTA stance because they had been out of power so long that the ends overrode any non-liberal positions Clinton might expouse (whether he believed them or not is another story, but he and the other Democrats knew they would help him with the voters).
Gore's lurch to the left on nationalized health care is a good weather vein on where Al thinks the party's heading going into 2004. Edwards can try and hide his congressional votes to make himself a more viable candidate in the 2004 general election, but he's got to get their first, and the primary voters will want to hear about his support for those positions that will become dead weights for him if he were to face Bush in November.
Edwards does though need to decide whether he's willing to roll the dice and either win the nomination or leave politics, because running would kill his re-election bid in NC, assuming he could even do both simultaneously.
Leftists politicians think the country will move left because they think Republican policies are bad and Americans will, after experiencing them, reject them. Savvier Democrats will move to the center now, in anticipation of how their party will move after Republican policies work. Gore's track to the left shows his poor judgement.