Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wha wadna vote for Johnny?

I really should be sleeping or studying for my German test or posting about philosophy. But John Edwards mania compels me to bring you the latest from Pew:

Among possible Democratic candidates, former Sen. John Edwards has the greatest crossover appeal. ­He is viewed favorably by 85% of Democratic voters who can rate him, 68% of independents, and 48% of Republicans.

Hillary ranks second in independent-love with 58% and only above Kerry in Republican-love with 23%. Biden gets 54% favorability from independents and 42% from Republicans, second to Edwards.

One cause of Edwards' high favorability ratings is that Republicans were consumed with going after Kerry in the last election. So Edwards' public persona was transmitted to people without any real Republican interference. It's a great persona, and nobody's going to be able to redefine him now.

Tangential Jacobite reference here.


Anonymous said...

Sure—this is an encouraging poll for us Edwards fans, but, my dearest Pangloss, how can you assert: "nobody's going to be able to redefine him now?" Isn't redefinition the name of the game?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Well, it's going to be a lot harder to redefine him than to define somebody who just burst onto the national political scene, and of whom perceptions are still malleable. It's also going to be harder to redefine him than to redefine somebody as colorless as Gore or Kerry. Redefinition may be the name of the game, but he's ahead by a rook and a queen.

Barring some crazy scandal or him making some massive blunders, I really don't know how to tear down his image. He's done everything possible to establish himself as that guy who wants to help poor people, and in the moment when the Republicans could've stopped perceptions from crystallizing, they ignored him and went after Kerry.

Justin said...

Look, if Edwards is going to have any image problem at all (and I'm not saying he acutally will), I suspect it's the sort of problem that wouldn't necessarily be reflected in favorability/unfavorability ratings anyway.

I remember that on the Daily Show they once showed a clip of Edwards when he was on the ESPN morning show Cold Pizza (he was talking about the UNC basketball team plaing for a national championship) and Jon Stewart's joke was something like, this guy doesn't even have the gravitas for Cold Pizza. If there's an Edwards image problem, that' it. It seems very much possible to find Edwards dreamy and charming, and so to have a fairly favorable impression of him on the whole, while at the same time not finding him serious enough to be on Cold Pizza, let alone be president.

And while this partly touches on Edwards's lack of experience (which can be changed), it partly touches on his underlying personality (which can't). Neither Pat Sajack nor Bill Parcells have any experience with national security, but I can't shake the feeling Parcells would be tough on the subject in a way Sajack wouldn't be. Parcells is just a no shit guy in a way Sajack and Edwards aren't.

It might be clarifying to compare Edwards as a candidate to Cheney. (The point isn't that Cheney will run, it's just to compare strengths and weaknesses.) Cheney's favorability ratings are horrible. On the other hand, he's as much of a no shit guy as there is on the present political scene. In an election between Edwards and Cheney, I feel like I can pretty easily imagine many voters who like Edwards much more than they do Cheney, but who still find themselves inclined to vote for Cheney over Edwards. Edwards seems awfully nice and all, but what with having to protect your family and all that, Cheney just seems like the tougher customer.

I like Edwards and am not at all convinced that he really does lack the gravitas to be electable. However, this is what the proper worry about him is. No Democrats should be worrying about whether the American public will like Edwards enought to elect him (this seems like a real concern for Hillary despite her comparatively high ratings in the poll you cite). What they should be worring about is whether the American public will take him seriously enough to elect him.

Anonymous said...

Justin you are wrong. You think Bush had more gravitas than Gore or Kerry? C'mon.

A majority of Americans vote based on a gut instinct about who they "trust"... and that trust is more about who seems like a decent guy. And, in that, there is no comparison between Cheney and Edwards... Cheney lost all the polls after the debate. Outside of the TV media, no one crowned Cheney the king. Edwards is actually too smart... he knows that if he tries to act like Gore did in 2000, that would be a give-away for the republicans to label him as a know-it-all trial lawyer... You only have to see the difference between his speeches when he talks to a public crowd and when he talks to a think tank... he knows when to show the gravitas, and when to show the values/emotional appeal apart... and that I think is smart of him.

As for the Daily Show and that clip... the Daily Show only showed the first half of Edwards' answer on Cold Pizza and not the second half. Anyone who saw the whole interview, and the entirety of that specific answer, would've seen that Edwards knows what he was talking about. In fact, an ESPN producer said that "We like having Edwards on because he actually knows the stuff about sports." He was a basketball and soccer coach... and they were talking about the tarheels in that interview... so that Daily Show reference was just useless I guess.

Did you see Edwards' appearance on the Daily Show a couple of weeks ago? I don't think anyone who watched it could've said that he didn't know very well what he was talking about.

So, personally, I don't think Edwards has an image problem... his only problem will be official resume experience. If he can convince the primary voters to overlook that thin public resume, he would've covered his biggest obstacle.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Justin, I like the Parcells illustration of your point. Edwards needs to figure out how he can project some kind of good foreign policy image. I really don't know what kind of image his persona plays into that well. He's exactly right for making the point that the invasion doesn't serve the interests of the American people and we need to spend the money on health care. But you need a lot more than that -- you need to be the one who'll beat the hell out of the bad guys.

Now, the need for a lot of toughness and bluster might be reduced in 2008. The American people have swallowed a lot of that over the last four years, and now (Bush's 35% approvals a recent CBS poll, his even lower favorability numers) they may be feeling ready to barf.