Ten Good Reasons for an Obama/Edwards ticket

TEN GOOD REASONS FOR AN OBAMA/EDWARDS TICKET….If you’re a progressive Democrat, you should want John Edwards to be Barack Obama’s vice president. I’ve made some of these points before, but now I’ve set up the slideshow! So enjoy:

10. Because he’s the most Vice-Presidential candidate we have. For VP, you want a powerful campaigner who can use the media spotlight associated with the position to promote progressive ends and support the presidential candidate’s major initiatives. Edwards is a good campaigner and speaker who knows how to focus media attention into places where it needs to be (see: poverty and health care). I’d contrast him with someone like Bob Graham, recently spotlighted in this space, who’s much more the kind of guy you want in the Cabinet — a quietly effective smart old guy with few campaigning skills and non-camera-friendly tendencies.

9. Because economic issues are huge this year. Matthew Yglesias presents this chart in a post titled “Annals of GOP doom”:
080602Finances1_pytfvbd%201
This isn’t 2002, 2004, or 2006. Economic worries are bigger this year than they’ve been for the last 30 years. In better times, I’d be more sympathetic to Matt Stoller’s case for Wes Clark, but this is time to capitalize completely on the issue that voters think is the most important by substantial margins — the economy. Obama’s Iraq foresight will serve us well on foreign policy, and we need somebody who can make working-class voters in the economically depressed Midwest see McCain’s anti-worker record and vote Democratic. Nobody in our Two Americas does it better than John Edwards.

8. Because conciliating Clinton supporters with a Clintonite is a fool’s errand.By historical standards, this actually hasn’t been a particularly divisive primary — only 1/4 of Clinton supporters said they wouldn’t vote for Obama. By contrast, a full 51% of McCain supporters said they wouldn’t vote for Bush in March 2000. They still voted for him enough to give him the election. Nobody means what they say when you ask them that question at the most emotional point in the process. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t get angry at Hillary supporters who say they’ll sit this one out — most of them will rethink that in cooler moments and make the right decision. So don’t do outlandish things for party unity. You’ll get it anyway.

And unless my reading of the psychology is totally confused, Hillary’s core supporters are attached to Hillary herself, who is in many ways an inspiring and sympathetic figure. Ed Rendell, Evan Bayh, and even Wes Clark aren’t what their dreams are made of. So even if you think we won’t get party unity for some reason, please don’t think you can get them to act like Hillary’s on the ticket just by picking some dude who endorsed her. (As for picking Hillary herself, I lay out a bunch of reasons not to do that here.)

7. Because running with someone who repents his pro-war vote throws Obama’s skills into full relief, and keeps the focus on 2002. There’s no way Obama should pick an unrepentant Iraq War supporter like Clinton — he needs a fellow war opponent to make broad and effective criticisms of the neocons who started the war. As long as Obama has someone who wholeheartedly supports his early antiwar position and is eager to praise his foresight, he’ll be in good shape.

Republicans have a superfically plausible case to make about the surge, even if it in fact neglects the entire purpose of the surge (to make room for political reconciliation). By contrast, the 2002 Iraq vote is nearly impossible to defend, and disapproval of the original invasion is around 70% in most polls. As Justin Tiehen suggests, media coverage of the relationship between Obama, who foresaw all the dangers at the beginning, and Edwards, who now hopes to redeem his acknowledged error by going all-out in favor of his prescient ticketmate helps to keep focus in the place where the Republican position is obviously indefensible. (There’s also a really nice regional / racial redemption story in here, if you’re looking for it.)

6. Because Pennsylvania tells us that Edwards helps Obama more than a locally popular Democrat. Take a look at the polling data:
pasusapresvpmz6
How much does the Governor of Pennsylvania help us in his home state? Not as much as John Edwards does. Edwards is 3-5% better than Rendell in the state where Rendell is supposed to help us win. You don’t pick John Edwards to help in the South or the Carolinas — you pick him to help everywhere, because that’s what he does. If you want more numbers, please go see OpenLeft’s Paul Rosenberg, who concludes: “Edwards is superior to all other VP candidates by margins that persist in virtually every category in almost every state.”

5. Because he did well in his last VP run. No major gaffes, and if only the Kerry campaign had followed his advice and hit back against the Swift Boaters, who knows where we’d be today?

as early as Aug. 5, when the Swifties were just getting traction, Edwards wanted to push back, hard. McCain had just told the Associated Press that the Swift Boat ads were “dishonest and dishonorable… the same kind of deal that was pulled on me.” Edwards wanted to begin a speech, “I join with Senator McCain in calling on the president to condemn this dishonest and dishonorable ad.” But Kerry headquarters said no. Stephanie Cutter, the boss of the Kerry communications shop, explained that the campaign didn’t need to give the Swift Boat vets any more attention than they were already getting.

Dude knew how to play ball. As for his debate performance, a CBS poll of uncommitted voters — the people you’re trying to win over in a debate — called it for Edwards 41-28. A before and after poll of the same voters also had him moving 1 percent of the vote from Bush to Kerry. And he’s only gotten better with practice.

Some people complain that he didn’t help Kerry in NC. But as the PA results above and the amazing MN results below suggest, it may just be that he helped Kerry everywhere to the point that North Carolina didn’t stand out.

4. Elizabeth. The story of Elizabeth Edwards facing down cancer to keep fighting for everything she believes in is positively awe-inspiring. The more we hear about her in the coming months, the better.

3. Because you want a better health care plan. That’s a link to Ezra Klein’s classic article about Obama’s not-quite-universal plan, which ends:

All the ingredients are in place for this to be a great plan — a public insurance component, a commitment to universality, an understanding that coherence is better than fractiousness, a willingness to regulate the insurance industry — but, in each case, at the last second, the policy is hedged before the fulfillment of its purpose. In this, Obama’s plan is not dissimilar from Obama himself — filled with obvious talent and undeniable appeal, sold with stunning rhetoric and grand hopes, but never quite delivering on the promises and potential. And so he remains the candidate of almosts. But as he told Morgan Miller back in March, there is time yet. And he is so very close.

If you want Obama to upgrade to a better plan, ask him to team up with the guy who had one. John Edwards introduced a plan for universal coverage very early in the campaign, pushed for it hard, and made the wonks cheer about how the goalposts had moved to the left. Unlike Obama’s, it’s a plan with a backdoor to single-payer. If you care about universal coverage, you want him in Obama’s inner circle for designing the health care plan, and you want someone with his rhetorical talents on domestic issues to go around selling the plan to America.

2. Because Minnesota says that Obama/Edwards is well-nigh invincible. Here are the numbers:
vp-mn
Tim Pawlenty is the governor of Minnesota, and he’s popular enough to add 10-13 points to McCain’s score if he becomes the faux-maverick’s VP. Against anybody except John Edwards, that is, who overwhelms Pawlenty. Even in Pawlenty’s home state, where people know and like him best, they like Edwards better.

This is the acid test of VP electability advantage, and Edwards passes it like platinum. A Republican with huge local popularity does less for McCain than Edwards does for Obama, even thousands of miles from his sea-swelled Carolina home. If you want to win, you want John Edwards on the ticket.

1. Because you want him to be president in 2016. As Senator, he racked up a 100% NARAL rating while representing a solid red state (where he also defied fate by voting against the Flag Burning Amendment). Early on in this campaign, he introduced the health care and global warming plans that bid up the price of progressive support and made our activists cheer. He broke new ground on the left by rejecting the War on Terror framework when other major candidates wouldn’t. His plans to reduce poverty in America, simplify taxes for 50 million Americans, and help poor people around the world were only a few of the great ideas coming out of his recent effort.

I once hoped that he’d set us on the road to single-payer (an outcome artfully built into his health care plan). Now I hope that he’ll talk Obama into adopting that plan, help him pass it, and bring it to its happy conclusion ten or twelve years from now. Given the high chance of a non-old VP pick becoming president later, it’s a serious possibility.

We’re early in the process, and there’s no telling who Obama’s options are. And for all I know, Edwards might not want the job. (I don’t read too much into people’s denials of VP interest — even if you want the VP slot, it’s considered gauche to advertise your availability.) But it’s a job that every progressive Democrat should want John Edwards to have — not only because the data shows him to be hugely effective in helping us win the next election, but because there’s no one better to set up as Obama’s right-hand man and potential heir.