The Democratic Field

My good friend – and Pundits Blogger par excellence — A.B. Stoddard accosted me today outside the MSNBC green room for saying on that network that John Edwards scares me the most out of all the candidates in the Democratic field. Basically, she said that I was full of bull.

I might me full of bull, as many of our intrepid commentators on this blog have attested, but I wasn’t just saying that as a matter of spin. I think Edwards would be the toughest candidate for the Republicans to beat.

History over the last 40 years tells me that when the Democrats nominate a white Southerner, they usually win. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson come to mind. Jack Kennedy ran not as a Northern liberal, but at least in some respects, to the right of Nixon (remember the Missile Gap).

When Democrats nominate Northern liberals — John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Fritz Mondale, George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey — they lose, and they usually lose by a large margin.

Al Gore, a white Southerner, ran as a populist Northerner, and barely lost as a result. Had he kept the home fires burning with a more centrist message, he would have won Tennessee, and he would have been president.

Edwards is also running as a Northern populist, and he is very vulnerable. But if he got the nomination — which doesn’t seem likely at this moment — it wouldn’t surprise me if he hightailed it back to the center and tried to reinvent himself.

Hillary Clinton is trying to bask in the glow of her husband’s presidency, but she is still a Northern liberal, no matter how she tries to reinvent herself. Like Hillary, no matter how much Barack Obama likes to talk about bridging the gap between the parties, he is seen by most voters as a Northern liberal.

The Republican brand is down, as many pundits like to point out. We are not doing well in the generics, and viewing the future from this vantage point likely means a Democratic victory. But at the moment, we are looking through this glass darkly.

Next November, the voters will be staring at their choices face to face. And history tells us that if the choice is between a Republican and a Northern liberal, the Republican wins.

Perhaps the country has changed so much in the last four years that the voting history of the last 40 years goes out the window. The Democrats seem to be banking on that assumption. But I feel pretty good about a general election that pits any of our candidates against either Hillary or Obama.