The Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia isn't until tomorrow night, but already analysts think the main theme of the evening's discussion will be front runner Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, I noted Senator Obama's recent efforts to try to define differences between himself and Senator Clinton on policy issues such as Social Security and Iran. ABC News' influential tip sheet The Note made the "New Barack Obama" its top story of the morning. Tomorrow's debate at Drexel University may serve as a large platform for both Obama and Edwards to attack Clinton on both policy differences and electability.
Donna Brazille, who managed Al Gore's 2000 campaign, is urging Edwards to argue that Senator Clinton's campaign is doomed to failure:
But having supporters do it [criticize Clinton's electability] is not the same as doing it yourself, said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 campaign.
"I want to see if John Edwards will say to Hillary Clinton in front of everyone: 'You're not electable, and you know it, and you're going to hurt people down the ballot,' " said Brazile, who hasn't endorsed anyone. "It's time to stop whispering. It's getting to be midnight."
I have discussed the charge that Clinton is unelectable before, and I think polls taken since then have strengthened my case that she can be elected. In fact, I think both Clinton and Obama would start the general election with a leg up on whoever the GOP nominates. John Edwards is the major Democratic candidate that I think has the worst chance of winning the presidency if nominated.
The view that Edwards would be the most electable candidate is often based largely on the fact that he was once a senator from a Southern state. This is incredibly simplistic to say the least. Edwards tends to poll better than most Democrats in the deep South, but his numbers in usual Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West aren't very strong. If running against, say, Rudy Giuliani, Edwards could very well have to fight tooth and nail to hold on to New York and New Jersey, while struggling significantly in blue collar swing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Then there is the whole problem of how John Edwards' campaign would survive the news cycles and spin sessions that are so important (unfortunately) in presidential elections. The media doesn't like Edwards at all. That much seems indisputable. From the $400 haircut story, to his stately mansion, to the constant criticism of him as a pretty boy and a light-weight which hurt him in the 2004 campaign, the media will literally jump at the chance to call him a hypocrite for every expensive jet he flies in or watch that he wears. It's ridiculously unfair, of course, that anyone who champions the cause of poverty has to be subjected to the gotcha stories that cable news channels love so much, but it is also likely that that is what will happen, if the campaign so far has been any indication.
I'll be watching closely tomorrow night.