Everyone thinks John Edwards is hurt by Barack Obama becoming the "fresh face" in the Democratic presidential primary race. It's also true that he can't compete with Obama and Hillary on a number of dimensions -- they're celebrities who would make history if they became president, and both are brilliant at a level that he, apparently, is not. But what he can do is run a substantive campaign that's based on issues and ideas rather than gauzy personality-driven appeals. As many people have noted, neither Hillary nor Obama has a distinct policy platform. Edwards will.
Hotline On Call has a typically sharp analysis of how Edwards is going to change the dynamics of the race:
Wisdom before it's conventional holds that Ex-Sen. John Edwards will suffer mightily in the '08 Democratic nomination position jostle once Sen. Barack Obama declares and subsequently sucks all the oxygen out of the room.
Here's how Edwards plans to parry: throw caution to the wind and repeatedly draw media-friendly contrasts.
That's the thought behind his clever "McCain Doctrine" appellation, which refers to the AZ Sen's support for a troop surge in Iraq. It's a catch slogan, and one that his '08 opponents wish they'd thought of. Think Edwards will abdicate the foreign policy discussion to others with, you know, more experience? Think again. Obama endorsed the Baker/Hamilton report. Edwards didn't think the report went far enough.
Speaking of Obama, here's what Edwards said in New Hampshire:
"Identifying the problem and talking about hope is waiting for tomorrow."
Again, the contrast: Edwards is a doer, Obama is a dreamer. Think Edwards will be nice to his opponents? Think again.
Obama right now gets applause because of who he is. Edwards get applause for what he says.
The good news is that Edwards' candidacy will force Obama and Clinton to be aggressive in developing their own policy platforms and messages. Winning the nomination on biography, as Kerry did in 2004, is not good for the party or the country.