Pro: Edwards has an ability to cultivate the grass roots
John Edwards has something Hillary Clinton doesn’t: an army of union members and progressive activists who have been cultivating the nation’s grass roots on behalf of the former senator and vice-presidential candidate.
With 130 paid staffers in Iowa and an army of enthusiastic volunteers, Edwards stands a good chance of derailing Hillary Clinton’s juggernaut of big-money donors and Democratic machine politicians. Endorsements from the Service Employees International Union and the Postal Workers Union will help Edwards in a state where organized labor remains surprisingly strong.
If Edwards wins the Iowa caucuses or even ties in a three-way race with Clinton and Barack Obama, the folksy North Carolinian will be in a good position to trump Clinton in New Hampshire.
A strong Edwards finish in the Hawkeye State means backers of Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden will begin to look for another candidate to take on Clinton. While some may opt for Obama, a sizable move by these political free agents to Edwards will put him in a better position than his two top rivals to win in New Hampshire.
In 1976, Iowa helped propel a lesser-known Southern candidate to the White House. He was Jimmy Carter, who went on to win in New Hampshire and the presidency.
The fact that Clinton’s husband, Bill, skipped the Iowa caucuses in 1992 (he received 3 percent of the vote) may not be lost on Iowa’s Democratic caucus participants.
Iowans are quite serious about their politics, and they do not like being ignored. And the fact that John Kerry, the winner of the 2004 Iowa caucuses, chose not to fight the flawed presidential election results in Ohio despite the objections of running-mate Edwards, might draw more Iowans to Edwards, as well.
New Hampshire is also unkind to front runners like Hillary Clinton. In the 1992 primary, Bill Clinton lost New Hampshire to Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, another enterprising senator who, like Edwards, spoke on behalf of the working class.
Edwards’ strong populist appeal has won him the backing of some of America’s largest unions, including the steelworkers, the mine workers, the transport workers, the carpenters and joiners, and several state chapters of the SEIU, including New Hampshire’s.
If the service employees in Nevada swing their support to Edwards, he also could do exceptionally well there in the Jan. 19 casino-dominated caucuses. Then comes New Hampshire, followed by Edwards’ birth state of South Carolina, and Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.
If Edwards wins or places in the first series of primaries and caucuses, he would become the candidate to stop the divisive Clinton and, as such, he would stand a good chance of picking up the support of Democratic candidates who might opt to stand down if they fare poorly in the early going.
Edwards’ ace in the hole might well be his campaign manager, former House Democratic Whip David Bonior of Michigan, whose persuasiveness might convince Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and, perhaps, even Barack Obama to sign on to the Edwards campaign.
While Bill Richardson and Joe Biden might gravitate to Clinton, that is not a forgone conclusion.
The primary battle would then be between the Edwards campaign, supported by the ABCers—“anybody but Clinton”—chock full of blue-collar workers and farmers, matched up against Hillary’s party loyalists, insiders from the Washington Beltway and Hollywood, and large political action committees.
In such a battle, Edwards could not only wrap up the nomination but begin his plans to move back to Washington as president—one who would likely bring real and hopeful change to a depressed nation.
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer for the liberal Online Journal (www.onlinejournal.com). Readers can write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20045, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.