07/07/2004: Thought for the Day:
Five months ago, after watching Kerry strut his stuff in New Hampshire—such as it was—I warned that Democrats were on the verge of nominating a guy who had plenty of selling points but couldn't make the sale himself. How was this mediocre campaigner attracting voters? The answer, it turned out, was that he wasn't attracting them. It was Kerry's sales force—Ted Kennedy, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, Iowa's first lady Christie Vilsack, and others—that was doing this job so well. The problem with this arrangement, I thought, was that the candidate would eventually have to stand and fight alone. "If you nominate Kerry, you don't get the sales force," I wrote. "You just get him."
Who was the better candidate? Edwards. That's how I saw it, and plenty of exit polls backed me up. Liberals were voting for Kerry because they thought he was electable. But the people whose ballots would actually determine which candidate got elected—independents, conservative Democrats, and self-identified Republicans sufficiently open-minded to participate in Democratic primaries—were voting for Edwards.
My wife saw it differently. She looked at Kerry and saw a guy loaded with national security credentials. She looked at Edwards and saw a baby-faced lawyer with little governing experience who seemed unprepared for the presidency in a time of war. Kerry saw the same thing. "In the Senate four years, and that is the full extent of public life—no international experience, no military experience," Kerry said of Edwards. Lots of voters also recognized a difference. According to exit polls, people who looked for the candidate with the "right experience" for the presidency voted overwhelmingly for Kerry.
So this was the dilemma: Edwards was the best salesman, but Kerry was the best product. If you had to choose one or the other, I thought it was more important to pick the salesman, since the consequences of losing the election were far more serious than the consequences of electing the less qualified Democrat. The logic made sense, but the premise was mistaken. Democrats didn't have to choose. They could get the best product along with the best salesman, if Kerry had the wisdom to pick Edwards.
--William Saletan, The wisdom of picking Edwards
Len on 07.07.04 @ 07:42 AM CST