Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama: Thank John Edwards

The first analyses of Barack Obama's victory are now being published, and more are being written. Some time back, at this blog, I wrote about a few people who helped the most to get Obama elected, including Colin Powell, George W. Bush and David Axelrod. But I left out one man who, inadvertently, might have helped more than any other.

And that man is John Edwards. Barack Obama might ought to thank Edwards for staying in the race, a strong and attractive candidate, through the Iowa caucuses.

January 4th, Edwards took a strong second to Obama in Iowa. Edwards had also taken second (to Kerry) in 2004. Edwards was familiar to the caucus goers in Iowa, and through two election cycles, he remained hugely popular there.

Edwards later succumbed to scandal (and wasn't even invited to the convention), but before that, he was instrumental in taking out the two biggest Pre-Obama Democratic Party rock stars of the century: Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton.

As much as Edwards tried to be the populist "change" candidate and cover his bases by showing substantial alignment with Obama, Edwards' voters remained more culturally similar to Clinton's voters.

In Iowa, Edwards helped split the two biggest voting blocks: the white vote and the status quo vote. His strong second gave Hillary a mighty shock, and Howard Dean knew all about that.

That gave Obama the opening he needed. Surely, Obama went into Iowa thinking he might well come in second to Hillary, but as in 2004, Edwards was there to deliver the surprise.

And early momentum is a huge thing, a monumental advantage. The 2008 election -- and history -- took it's amazing turn to Obama out on the prairie, January 4th, thanks to John Edwards. And as much as anything, that is why we are where we are today.

We'd like to think, in the pre-inaugural glow millions and perhaps billions are now enjoying, that it's all ordained, in hindsight, that we are fulfilling our destiny, that this was always how it was meant to be, that America's goodness is stamped in stone -- that Obama's rise to seeming invincibility and bipartisan (and multiracial) popularity is not just a dream, that it is our due. But it is often circumstances such as Edwards' strong showing last January that change the course of our political and national fortunes.


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