Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Presidential Primary: Edwards After All?

So we probably should not expect Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to be on the same ticket this fall. Could they get ugly enough toward each other that forgotten man John Edwards ends up looking like the best choice for Democrats?

We had something like that happen in Nebraska in the 1998 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Lincoln Mayor Mike Johanns was the "quiet man" in a field that included Congressman Jon Christensen and State Auditor John Breslow. Christensen and Breslow had more sizzle than Johanns, but Johanns steadily and thoroughly worked all 93 counties and built a solid network.

In the home stretch of the primary, when the Christensen and Breslow campaigns were flinging wildly and making some statements the candidates would regret, Quiet Mike emerged as the clean and sensible choice.

The comparison is not perfect. Johanns had legitimate appeal in his own right. He might have won without the mudslinging drama in the final weeks of the 1998 primary. But the nastiness at the end was a factor that played in Johanns' favor.

Edwards seems to have no shot unless the front runners disembowel each other. But if they do, and leave the high road to Edwards, maybe he practices some Bill Clinton "triangulation" and emerges as the only candidate to whom the entire party can rally in the general election.

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