Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

John Edwards Is In A World Of Hurt

John Edwards is slowly sliding into second-tier status as a Democrat candidate. While his campaign continues to have high hopes for the former senator from North Carolina, the numbers paint an ugly picture. His fundraising is, shall we say, paltry in comparison to Sens. Clinton and Obama ($46 million and $36 million respectively). He has not gained any serious traction in any of the debates held, thus far. We would be remiss if we did not remind readers that Hillary and Edwards were caught with a hot microphone conspiring to limit the Democrat debates to the frontrunners alone. Too bad Edwards is not considered one.

On Real Clear Politics today, Reid Wilson highlights the slid, and the spin from the Edwards camp:

John Edwards, suffering in the polls and increasingly seen as a second-tier candidate, is reshuffling his campaign's strategy more dramatically than virtually any Democrat so far this year. The former North Carolina senator is faced with a crucial question: How many eggs can he fit in his Iowa basket?

After the 2004 race, Edwards practically made Iowa his second home. Since Edwards lost his bid to become vice president, he has made at least thirty trips to the state, far more than any other candidate. "He's building on his strength, which is in Iowa, because he poured so much effort into it last time around," said University of Iowa Professor Cary Covington.

That strategy seems to have thus far paid off. "Iowa's a state where advertising has played second fiddle to personal contacts and personal connections. Edwards has developed that kind of capital in the state," Covington said.

He is putting everything in Iowa. It is his last gasp, er hope, for his beleaguered and dying candidacy. Even his campaign admits that Iowa is the choke-point for him in the election, and that only a win will keep him in the race:

But while Edwards built what was thought to be a formidable lead in Iowa, the one-time Hawkeye State frontrunner has recently seen his steady support slowly erode. A poll conducted last October, by the Democratic firm Harstad Strategic Research (which now polls for rival Senator Barack Obama), showed Edwards leading by 20 points, at 36%, to Hillary Clinton's 16% and Obama's 13%. In early April, Edwards' RCP Average led the field at 31.3%. His average now trails Clinton's, at 24% to her 26.3%.

The former Senator's poll numbers wouldn't be a problem, many analysts say, if Edwards were plotting his campaign differently. Edwards' strategy "certainly seems to be putting all the chips in Iowa," national political analyst Rhodes Cook said. For him to be successful, and even to survive until the February 5th Super Duper Tuesday, "he needs to win it."

Edwards' campaign disputes the notion that he may be slipping in Iowa. "John Edwards is strong in Iowa right now because this election, more than ever, is about voters wanting to go in a new direction," campaign spokeswoman Colleen Murray said.

Without the overwhelming bank accounts Clinton and Obama boast, Edwards is unable to run a national campaign like the two front-runners. "He's made a strategic choice that the best way to vault himself to serious consideration is to win Iowa," Covington said. For Edwards, said Adelstein, "it's all dependent on that bounce out of Iowa."

Reports suggest that Edwards, instead of expanding his campaign, is zeroing in on Iowa more so than he has in the past. He recently shifted campaign staff from Nevada, another state with early caucuses, to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, condensing his operations. That, says Adelstein, is a problem. "As the map narrows for a candidate, it's the tell-tale sign that they're in trouble."

Iowa may be the key for him, but the other two primary states that go right in line behind Iowa are New Hampshire and South Carolina. If he could sweep all three, then he would be vaulted back into the frontrunner's camp. But he trails Hillary in both states by twenty points (32% to 12%; 34% to 14%, respectively). In 2004, John Kerry took Iowa, beating Edwards by a mere six points (38% to 32%), and with Hillary in the lead now, there is less of a chance he could catch her, despite the fact she only leads him by two points. Her recent surge ahead of him shows she knows he was winning there, and she plans to end his plans there.

As for Super Duper Tuesday, Iowa does not figure in. the three states he should be focusing on are California, Illinois, and New York. All three are participating early, and a win in any of those states could give him a much bigger bounce than Iowa could. His survival is dependent on a solid showing across the board, not just in one state, and the bounce he would receive should he take Iowa is not as significant as many prognosticators claim.



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