The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

Why John Edwards is still in this race

I haven't been blogging about the American presidential election, though I've been following it as closely as one can. And I notice that no matter how John Edwards does in the early primaries and caucuses, he is not the focus of media attention. When he beats Hillary Clinton into third place in Iowa, the focus is on Obama's rise and Hillary's fall. He barely gets a mention. And when he places a poor third in New Hampshire, he doesn't get mentioned at all.

The conventional wisdom -- you know, the type that believed that Clinton was a sure winner in Iowa, and that Obama would sweep New Hampshire -- has written off John Edwards.

At the risk of getting everything wrong, let me suggest that there are two reasons why Edwards is still in this race. They are called South Carolina and Nevada.

Let's start with South Carolina, which holds its Democratic primary on 26 January. This is the state where Edwards was born. It's the only state he won in the 2004 primaries, getting 45% of the vote. And he's there already, campaigning aggressively and tirelessly, announcing new endorsements.

Are the 2004 results in any way relevant to today? They might be. Edwards' "poor" showing in New Hampshire yesterday -- 17% -- was actually a big gain for him. In 2004, he only won 12% of the New Hampshire vote following his surprise performance in Iowa. And from that 12%, he went on to win 45% six days later in his home state. This year, he has 17 days to turn things around and to win his first primary victory. No one knows if he can pull this off.

The one thing we can be certain about in this election year is that the polls are completely wrong and cannot be trusted. Ignore what they say. Let's rely on reason and experience -- and those tell us Edwards should do well in, and possibly win, the next primary.

As for Nevada, the media spin -- from the people who got it wrong about the first two states -- is that the powerful culinary workers union, a part of the UNITE HERE union, will be endorsing Obama. Or maybe Clinton. But not Edwards.

But national union president Bruce Raynor has made it clear publicly that whatever the brothers and sisters in Nevada say, he supports Edwards. And in 2004, UNITE HERE was the main union backing the Edwards campaign. This should come as no surprise, as this is the union of clothing and textile workers (as well as hotel and restaurant workers), and Edwards comes from the family of a mill worker.

So whatever the local union decides, there is going to be a lot of union support for Edwards in Nevada, and Nevada is a union state.

Only 24 hours ago, the Clinton campaign people were tossing around the idea that Hillary might not even campaign in South Carolina and Nevada, though they're obviously going to change their tune today.

There are still quite a few scenarios where Edwards can still win this race -- and the mud-slinging between Obama and Clinton is certainly going to help. Iowa proved that money cannot buy this election, and New Hampshire showed that media pundits will not decide for voters who has "momentum" and who is in decline.

The next few caucuses and primaries will be decided not by pollsters and pundits, but by the ordinary working people in John Edwards' home state and in one of the few union powerhouses in the U.S. Edwards is still very much in this race.


I'm not a huge fan of the media but I think they were right not to focus too heavily on Edwards after Iowa.

Obama won pretty big while Edwards squeaked past Hillary thanks to a lot of Second Preference votes.

Even if he does take Nevada and or South Carolian I'm not sure he has the money to compete seriously on Super Tuesday.

I think that you overstate the case against polls, althought not the caution that needs to be used in asessing them. The polls in Iowa were more right than wrong and in New Hampshire the were correct on the Republican outcome.

The exit polls tell us that the demographics of the Iowa electorate and the New Hampshire electorate were different. Young people, and first timers were not as high a percentage of the NH electorate as in Iowa. The results also show that Clinton dramtically increased her share of women's votes.

The exit polls also indicate some of the problems that Edwards has to overcome. Number one has to be that both Clinton and Obama are doing better among union members and in union households. This was true in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Some of this no doubt has to do with the nature of the union electorate in those states. In Iowa the most important union is AFSCME and they are very strong Clinton backers.

I think you are correct that Edwards is still a viable candidate, but the New Hampshire results make it more difficult for him. He was hoping that the NH results would turn it into a two person race between him and Obama, instead most people will see it as a two person race between Obama and Clinton.

That is the calculus that Edwards has to change, and he has to do it soon enough to generate the fundraising momentum he needs to communicate his message on Feb. 5th when 22 states are holding primaries.

That is going to be a major challenge for him. Yes he did better in NH this time than in 2004, but his share of the electorate dropped by 12 points in the five days between NH and Iowa. And if if 2004 is the standard he has to win South Carolina this time as he did in 2004. I think that will be very difficult for him to pull off.

Nevada may be his best shot for a win, but that will be much more difficult if the Culinary workers don't go for him. Most people believe that he has not developed the kind of strong organization in Nevada that he had in Iowa.

The other thing I noticed last night was that in Clinton's victory speech she very directly made a pitch to Edwards' voters by attacking the health care companies, pharmaceutical companies and oil companies.

It would be a shame if the voters who championed the message we find so attractive went to the candidate most representative of neoliberalism in the U.S.

Frank Llewellyn
National Director
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)
(DSA has not endorsed a candidate in the Democratic primaries)

I just saw (Thursday, January 9, 12:30 pm EST) a report on the NY Times website that says Unite Here is announcing today that it will endorse Obama. This may seriously damage Edward's chances in Nevada, as Unite Here's local in Nevada is the largest and most politically active union in the state.
It is a curious election. The Republicans are truly divided, with some of their candidates holding, end expressing, oppossing ideas. This has often been the case in the Democratic party, but it is no longer so. The main Democratic rivals are presenting different nuances on the major issues, not oppossing ideas. Whoever comes out of the convention as the nominee, that person will have the positive support of virtually all groups within the party.
But the main difference with recent elections, is that there are a lot more people participating in the process. Turnouts in both Iowa and New Hampshire set record highs, especially on the Democratic side. This is especially significant because of the inclusion of Independents/Unaffiliated voters in these primaries. If their participation is indicative of a national trend and a higher percentage of the U.S. population actually turns out and votes in November, we will see a real change.

Thanks for showing me this. Funny,from the little bit that I've been following the campaign I've liked what Edwards has to say the best. I guess I thought it was more "pc" to be for one of the others.