Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2002 / 6 Shevat, 5763
You must deny wanting to be veep in order to become one
In case you can't remember which Democrat John Edwards is, he is the one with the big shock of Kennedy hair falling across his forehead, a bright smile and a mild, Southern accent.
In 1998, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. It was his first entry into pubic service and now, four years after taking his oath of office, he is already running for president.
This, coupled with his youth -- he is 49 -- has lead some people to dismiss him as a serious candidate.
But in New Hampshire, and later in California and Florida, where I also watched him campaign, he got a very good reaction from the crowds. People listened to him and liked him.
Many political operatives dismiss this. They have polls, and demographics, and geographic strategies, and all sorts of graphs and charts to prove whatever they want to prove.
Me, I watch how crowds react. I am not saying if you can win over a crowd, you automatically can be elected president, but it's a good start.
What is gathering votes, after all, except winning over crowds, either in person or via the media?
And when I asked people in the crowds what they liked about Edwards, they kept talking about his "fresh" approach. He was different; he didn't seem like more of the same, they said.
On the other hand, on that day in New Hampshire, his bright and funny wife Elizabeth greeted a small group of reporters who were following her husband by saying, "So, have you met anyone up here who knows who he is?"
The answer was no, and now a year later, the answer is pretty much the same. Even though Edwards has enjoyed a lot of good publicity, his standing in every poll I have seen is still in single digits.
True, these polls don't mean much. True, they are largely about name recognition and other candidates or likely candidates -- like John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and Tom Daschle -- are far better known than Edwards.
But still, you have to catch fire some time and, as early as it seems, now is the time.
These candidates have to raise about $30 million each, and they have to attract media attention -- the two are related -- and pretty soon now the media will declare certain candidates in the first tier and certain candidates in the second tier.
First tier candidates will get coverage, and second tier candidates will get stiffed.
Edwards desperately needs to be considered first tier. One problem he is going to have with this, however, is that nearly everybody thinks he would make a terrific vice president.
His biggest appeal is that he might bring some Southern states to the ticket and his biggest drawback, his inexperience, is not as important in a vice president.
(He was Al Gore's choice for vice president in 2000 up until the very last minute, when Gore switched to Lieberman.)
And if Edwards runs as vice president and loses in 2004, he would be well-positioned to run for president in 2008.
Edwards insists he is not running for vice president, but that is the kind of thing you have to say if you want the job.
I am sure he would prefer to be at the top of the ticket, but I doubt he would really say no if he got offered the second spot.
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