Yesterday, I wrote about John Edwards' slippage in Iowa. Normally, I do not take great stock in polls this far out (yes, it is still too far out to take polls too seriously), especially the famously difficult to poll Iowa Caucus. My reasons for thinking the latest Iowa poll was not so much the numbers, as the fact that Edwards has dropped while Obama has risen since the end of July. Edwards now lacks a POSITIVE narrative for his candidacy for the critical last phases of the campaign. He has become the “attack Hillary” candidate (as opposed to being the Not Hillary candidate, the position he has now ceded without a shot to Barack Obama.)
At MYDD, Jerome Armstrong sees it differently:
Chiming in, it's great that the pollsters are now adding whether the voters attended the 2004 caucuses or not . . . I would tend to bank more on those that caucused in '04 . . .
With due respect to Jerome, I think he misses a very important point here, on the night of the caucus, the differences between previous caucus goers and first timers is simply not that great – both in choices and participation. For example, in 2004, the entrance polling showed:
Kerry won the initial preference of first-time caucus-goers, while Edwards and Dean roughly tied for second in this group. (First-timers made up 55 percent of participants, up from 46 percent in 2000.) . . .
Here's my point, the John Edwards campaign is looking more and more like the Gephardt campaign of 2004. He is supposed to have union support, experienced caucus goers, etc. He has gone strongly negative against the perceived frontrunner. He is not a new face for Iowa, thus the change argument is difficult for him in terms of actually being a new candidate.
Most importantly, in my opinion, his dominant narrative now is one of a candidate whose campaign is dominated by personal attacks against the perceived frontrunner. Like Gephardt.
Unlike Kerry in 2004, or Edwards 2004 for that matter, there is no positive narrative for the Edwards campaign now. There is no doubt he can hurt Hillary (or Obama if he chooses to shoot in that direction), but he now has reached the point where he can not help his own campaign.
And this campaign choice by Edwards is utterly perplexing. He was very viable in Iowa. He had a positive agenda. He was NOT in a two person race, the only ones where negative attacks can work (driving up your own negatives is a necessary part of a campaign of attacks, the hope is you drive up your opponents' negatives even further.)
I think it is clear now that the Presidential race is a two person race in that only two people can win now. I think Edwards can not. And he did it to himself. The most baffling campaign decision I can remember.