- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It almost seems someone is playing a cosmic joke on the Democrats, who have placed all their eggs in Sen. John Kerry’s basket because they think he is electable when he may not be the most electable of the lot.

Clearly a hushed panic seized Democrats when the Howard Dean Express self-combusted in a matter of days before their very eyes and caused them to turn to Mr. Kerry, a New England Kennedy liberal too lackluster even to excite fellow New England Kennedy liberals.

Pretty soon they’re liable to wake up and read the exit polling data and discover what they really think about Mr. Kerry. Those polls consistently show they’ve cast their lot with him not because they believe in him or identify with him or his causes but because of his perceived electability.

But the only basis for this is that he has been in politics for a while, and as far as we know, he hasn’t thrown any Deanlike public tantrums or committed any serious gaffes for the press to exploit. In short, the Democrats decided Mr. Kerry was electable, mainly because he appears — recent rallies excepted — as unexcitable as Mr. Dean is excitable, as dispassionate as Mr. Dean is passionate.

Don’t tell Democrats, but there’s a lot more to electability than being unDeanlike. Yet in their mad dash from Mr. Dean to Mr. Kerry, Democrats have showered Mr. Kerry with nearly unstoppable momentum, so the Kerry electability fiction is now feeding on itself.

In the process, they’ve completely ignored what’s behind the Kerry curtain and, thankfully, the potential electability of John Edwards. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t concluded Mr. Kerry is completely unelectable; anything can happen in politics. But I think the Democrats, in their blind rebound away from Mr. Dean, have bought a pig in a poke. They don’t know what they’ve purchased. And they don’t know what they might have purchased in Mr. Edwards.

I’m not sure Mr. Edwards is that electable either, given his relative dearth of experience and that pretty face affixed to a height-challenged body. For shortness to work in politics, it’s better if you’re a bit of a madman, like Adolf Hitler or Napoleon. Short and smiley just doesn’t ring presidential.

Nevertheless, Mr. Edwards’ smarmy pseudo-populism scares the heck out of me. Beginning in the courtroom, he has refined to an art the knack for victimizing and polarizing, pitting injured plaintiffs against evil defendants, and wage earners against entrepreneurs.

Just like he convinces juries he cares more about the plaintiff’s injury than his share of the verdict, exit polls reveal he has fooled primary voters into believing he cares more about “working folks” than his own lust to be president.

If he truly cared, he wouldn’t try to poison people’s souls with envy and he wouldn’t ignore the evidence so cogently presented by the brilliant Thomas Sowell that there are not nearly as many poor people in America as some would have us believe. Or that the average income of those in the lowest income bracket is rising. And most importantly, and happily (to all but the class warriors), “people seldom stay in the bottom brackets for more than a few years.”

But the facts are sometimes less relevant than salesmanship, and Mr. Edwards has proven in court, on the stump and in a few primaries at least, that he’s a salesman. Perhaps I’m just haunted by Bill Clinton’s ability to distort a barely sluggish economy into “the worst economy in 50 years,” and the largest peacetime growth in American history into evil “trickledown economics.”

Plus, in the Democrats’ America, it no longer matters whether you’re truly poor, only whether others have more. Not until everyone “earns” the same income will this be a great country. Isn’t that what Mr. Edwards means by “one America”?

Sure, I still think President Bush is an odds-on favorite for re-election, but my gut tells me Mr. Edwards could be a more formidable opponent. He has the Clinton schtick down, if not the height, he stays on message like a bulldog, and he hasn’t amassed the problematic paper trail that Mr. Kerry has. Both Mr. Kerry’s woefully inconsistent positions and his Jane Fondaesque antics are eventually going to come back to bite him — hard.

I still think Mr. Kerry is virtually unstoppable for the nomination, but I can’t get over this nagging fear that Democrats might wake up before it’s too late and realize what their polling data are trying to tell them. Which is that Mr. Kerry is an unappealing candidate they are crowning because he’s “electable” when in fact the smiling little silver-tongued Johnny Edwards might give George W. a better run for his money.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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