Before suggesting how John Edwards might revive his candidacy, let me emphasize the most important predictions I am making here: that the nomination of neither party will be decided on Super Tuesday; that Edwards has a chance to break out in upcoming debates; and that the mainstream punditry, from the insider class to the contrary, is, in my view, flat-out wrong, as usual.
First I want to thank The Hill for formally naming me as a regular columnist with a column that will run every Tuesday, plus my postings on this Pundits Blog and perhaps the occasional additional op-ed if issues demand and space permits.
I consider myself not a pundit, but a counter-pundit or anti-pundit and write for the record here that I am appalled by what passes for political commentary today and hope to give some voice to an alternative point of view.
My insider credentials are as strong as any, but my natural habitat involves the large-audience progressive radio shows such as Randi Rhodes on Air America, and the large-audience Internet, because I neither am, nor ever will be, the kind of inside baseball team player who inhabits the cable news.
Here is my first formal prediction in this new role: I predict that virtually everyone you hear on cable and network television is wrong and neither party’s nomination will be decided on Super Tuesday. I predict that the most likely time the Democratic nomination will be decided will be on the day that Ohio and Texas vote, with the real possibility the Republican fight continues beyond that day.
Remember where you heard it, folks: When the insiders tell you “the campaign is over,” hold on to your wallet with both hands, because when they all agree, as they almost always do, they are almost always wrong. We will see who is right, but I do not believe that the nomination of either party will be decided on Super Tuesday unless some non-campaign mega-disaster befalls one of the leading Democrats, which is highly unlikely.
Now we are probably in the closing act of the last stand of John Edwards, who now has three options. If he withdraws and supports Barack Obama, he might become the kingmaker, if not the king. Second, if he continues on the current course, he probably runs out of money and flames out without any chance.
Edwards has a third option, and I predict this, which you have not yet heard on the cable talkies, but soon will: If Edwards slightly retools his message back towards his “two Americas” of 2004, he has a chance to win the upcoming debate so decisively that he will be able to take his case to an Alamo-like stand in Texas and Ohio.
You heard it here first: John Edwards has a chance to thoroughly win the upcoming debates with a smaller number of candidates and a greater chance to get out his message, but he must retool the message. Angry populism alone does not win presidential campaigns, and he had every chance in Iowa, where he virtually lived for six years, and it did not happen.
Edwards should return to his 2004 roots, combining a progressive populism with an optimism about what America can be if he is elected. He should talk about two Americas among voters, but also the greater America that is possible with Edwards as president and a Democratic House and Senate.
As the economy moves to center stage and the injustice and bad economics of the Bush viewpoint come to the center of our national debate, Edwards should reach beyond mere anger and offer policies of hope and reach out to Middle American families and working-class voters with hard but uplifting visions that he would champion during the coming debates.
Edwards should champion a freeze of the Grapes of Wrath-style foreclosures that are driving America towards recession, and champion substantial cuts in interest rates to help the average American.
Edwards should oppose the Bush vision of permanently extending tax cuts that are the gold standard for injustice, and champion tax cuts for the middle class and refundable tax cuts or other assistance for the poor that will stimulate the national economy and help the two Americas become one America for a rising tide that would lift all boats.
Edwards should oppose corporate giveaways while supporting business incentives for safe renewable alternative energy and visibly champion those business sectors that would help the new America.
Edwards should call for national usury laws that would ban outright credit card interest rates that rise above 30 percent for good customers, with good credit card histories, who miss only one or two payments.
Edwards should escalate his noble support for homeless veterans and make a direct appeal to military families as well as Middle America, because on issues like healthcare, they are all part of the one America we seek, and all shortchanged, in the same way, for the same reasons, by the same forces, in the two Americas we have.