Man Without Qualities

Friday, January 23, 2004

Bounce II

Perhaps the only thing in this race more remarkable than how little it takes to get the media to trumpet that Senator Edwards is on fire is how much it seems to take to get any meaningful portion of the public to warm up to him:

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who earned a jolt of momentum from his second place finish in Iowa that so far has not translated into rising poll numbers in New Hampshire, slipped one percentage point to 7 percent.

On a related point, the complete arc of Dick Morris' reasoning described in the immediately preceding post has even more difficulties than noted there, including the complete absence to date (January 23) of any detectable bounce for Senator Edwards.

It is worth noting that the man supposedly behind the machinations which are the subject of Mr. Morris' reasoning, Mr. Lehane, putatively works for Wesley Clark but actually works for the Clintons - and they don't want any of the Democrats in this race, including Mr. Clark, to become president. But they especially don't want Dr. Dean to become even the Democratic nominee - since he has all but pledged to purge the Democratic Party and its institutions of the Clintons' operatives and influence. The contenders other than Dr. Dean are less offensive to the Clintons' agenda as the mere nominee - as long as that nominee doesn't trip up and actually win the presidential election. But if any substantial portion of the speculation in these stories is correct, the Clintons seem to be well on their way to preventing that disaster.

But, one might argue, Senator Edwards and General Clark are both Southerners - their time will come in the South. That raises a name that has mostly been irrelevant so far in this campaign: Al Sharpton. That's a name that could become very significant to Messrs. Edwards and Clark - and even to the entire future possibly-brokered Democratic convention in which a candidate commanding, say, 10% of the delegates corresponding to the votes of the Democrats' most loyal and important consitituency could have real influence. As Senator Zell Miller sagely put it:

First, the Reverend "Ready for Prime Time." Conventional wisdom says native Southerners John Edwards and Wesley Clark and moderate Joe Lieberman will have the edge when the primaries move South. Don't count on it. I'd be willing to bet a steak dinner (mad cow or no mad cow) that Al Sharpton will get almost as many votes as Messrs. Edwards, Clark or Lieberman in this supposedly more friendly territory. (If they're still around, that is.) The last time there was an African-American in the primaries, Jesse Jackson blew everyone away, getting 96% of the African-American vote in the South, carrying Georgia, Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana, and placing second in North Carolina, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee. It would be a tall order to match that. But Rev. Sharpton could do well because he's even more appealing than Rev. Jackson. While Jesse is sullen, Al is engaging. Can you imagine Rev. Jackson poking fun at himself? Can you imagine him on "Saturday Night Live" belting out James Brown's "I Feel Good" with a few cool moves?

In Democratic primary season, Senator Miller builds a road running both ways: If Mr. Sharpton can be seen as an annoying obstacle to the ability of Messrs. Edwards and Clark to harvest the South, then they can be seen as annoying obstacles to Mr. Sharpton's ability to do the same. One thing the Clintons know especially well is the politics of the South. And in addition to their proven ability to adapt to campaign contingencies, the Clintons have a very good record of being able to plan well ahead in a campaign (actually running the government was not so easy for them). So it seems likely that they also see what Senator Miller sees coming. Is it possible that the better reason for the Clintons' purposes to eliminate or damage Senator Edwards now is to clear the way for the kind of Al Sharpton Southern triumph predicted by Senator Miller? Would a brokered convention in which Al Sharpton has a lot of say in the final deal be more or less likely to produce a winning nominee and program than one in which he had no influence?

The reader should not be so naive as to imagine that the Clintons haven't considered that last question - or that they don't have a very well-considered answer.

UPDATE: Ah! We didn't have to wait at all! Here's another daily drip on Edwards already. And its a nice corrosive one in a Democratic Party that's full of people all charged up about campaign finance protocol.

FURTHER UPDATE: Ah, another one! Ripe. Very ripe. The "optimism and hope" bit ("Pessimists and cynics did not build this country, optimists built this country," Edwards said.) is suggested to be a calculated sham - supplemented by nasty, secret, negative tactics. Yes, very ripe that one. A trial lawyer offering arguments just for effect? Arguments that he doesn't really believe? Who wudda thunkit?!


STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Signs of a national Edwards bounce after all? Odd that it's not detected as happening in New Hampshire, the state where people actually have to vote very soon.

Who are these people?

STILL MORE: This poll seems to show a New Hampshire Edwards surge.

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