Walter Shapiro covers the Edwards who is winning the Iowa voters.
But during a period when the Democrats are desperately searching for the magic elixir (or narrative or frame) for winning back the White House, it is odd that Edwards is belittled for his powers of in-person persuasion. While Edwards has put together a string of strong debate performances (most recently last Wednesday night in New Hampshire), he remains a more compelling candidate in person than he is on TV.Meanwhile Edwards consistently outpaces both Hillary and Obama in national polling against the Republican opponents. Edwards leads the top four Republican candidates by an average of nearly nine points. Hillary leads by an average of six points while Barack Obama has an average lead of five points according to Rasmussen national polling.
Elizabeth Edwards, who was campaigning in California this weekend, suggested in a phone interview that the accusations of insincerity against her husband were politically motivated. "Trying to make it [look] hypocritical and political is obviously a tactic to undermine his connection with the voters at that gut-honesty-trust level," she said. "So they make the case that if a wealthy man is talking about poverty, it has to be a political position. I don't think they made the same arguments about Bobby Kennedy ... or Franklin Roosevelt." In truth, the patrician FDR was reviled not as a hypocrite, but as a "traitor to his class."
....But if Edwards boasts a tactical advantage in this race, even over Hillary Clinton, it is that he has run for president before. As the 2004 vice-presidential nominee put it, "I went through the 2003-2004 campaign -- particularly the general election -- surrounded by more consultants and experts than you could shake a stick at. And the person whose judgment I trust is mine. And I trust Elizabeth's too."
With three months to go before the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, John Edwards remains the most politically plausible alternative to Clinton and Obama. And his fate depends on voters like Jill Brewer believing what they see before them in places like a community center in New Hampshire -- a candidate who is going by his gut and who insists that ultimately what is inside his heart is what matters.