As I noted in a prior post, John Edwards’s main message now is “I offer change, just like Barack Obama.” This elicits an obvious response, namely “Great, buddy. So why should we select you when Obama is also available?”
This was an easier question to answer when “everybody knew” that Obama was too young and unqualified to be taken wholly seriously. But those days are behind us. Besides, having twice the Senatorial experience of your opponent isn’t all that impressive when you have six years and he has three. Certainly Edwards will get some support because he has a Southern accent, isn’t known to ever have snorted cocaine, and – dare I say it – is white. But those factors don’t seem to be enough for Edwards to prevail.
So what can Edwards do, other than wait around and hope to get lucky from an Obama gaffe? It won’t be easy. The obvious approach is to be specific about what he means by his version of “change,” and try to show how it’s better or more credible than Obama’s. But what can he be specific about?
- Detailed policy proposals? That’s usually a losing campaign strategy.
- Top-level policy goals (e.g., raise the minimum wage)? That’s hard to be credible about. The major goals tend to be expensive to achieve. Even if you convince some voters the cost is worthwhile, they know you’re going to face fierce opposition when you try to push them through.
- A laundry list of enemies (e.g., five different kinds of vile and corrupt corporations)? Try that one and people start noticing you’re picking on their own employers (although health care companies seem to be fair game right now). So it’s probably better to continue Edwards’ current strategy of railing mainly at lobbyists and general corporate baddies.
Unlike the case of Hillary Clinton, I don’t have specific suggestions for John Edwards’ campaign. Edwards is already following the best strategy; it’s just unlikely to work. For as long as Obama continues to be so well-regarded, there isn’t much Edwards can do to slingshot past him.