Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's too soon to write off John Edwards

The media has been telling the story all along about how the Democratic race is a contest between Clinton and Obama. Edwards has always been a footnote. Watching the New Hampshire results on Tuesday, I think I heard Wolf Blitzer use the word "disappointing" to describe the Edwards finish at least 20 times.

But, as Wolf would say, "take a look at this":

2004: Edwards finishes second in the Iowa caucuses, moves on to New Hampshire and finishes fourth with 12% of the vote. He goes on to win South Carolina and tie Oklahoma and wins no other primaries but is deemed the second most successful candidate for the year.

2008: Edwards finishes second in the Iowa caucuses and moves on to New Hampshire and finishes third with 17% of the vote.

Edwards is doing better so far in 2008 than he did in 2004. It is very premature to write him off. Though Edwards certainly faces challenges, a Clinton rebound in South Carolina following her New Hampshire win could transform that into a three-way race and Edwards would only need 33% to win (in 2004, he carried it with 45%). Clinton and Obama are fighting out in Nevada until the Jan. 19 caucus before focussing their efforts on South Carolina which votes Jan. 26. Edwards will be there full time for an extra 10 days. It is not hard to imagine Edwards pulling out a win if it is a three way contest. Then what happens? Going into Tsunami Tuesday it would be Clinton and Obama with 2 and 1 wins or 1 and 2 wins respectively and Edwards with 1 win. How is that not a three-way race? And, unlike in 2004, when Edwards petered out because there was a clear frontrunner for voters to rally behind, if Clinton and Obama are fighting it out nationally on Feb. 5, Edwards could focus on industrial states and Southern states with smaller Black populations and probably carry as many as the big two. Then the nomination could go any of three ways as the later primaries are sorted out.

The media should have learned in Iowa and New Hampshire not to get ahead of themselves. Edwards is certainly running third, but he is still in the running.

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