Today had me thinking for a while that I wished Edwards had gotten the nomination instead of Kerry. He’s certainly the better politician, and I think he’d make a better president besides, though it’s hard to be 100% sure about this since he doesn’t have any dramatically different issue positions. But then I thought back to what I thought during the Kerry-Edwards phase of the primary, which is that Edwards would have been slaughtered on national security by the Bush team. I think an Edwards Administration would do fine on foreign policy, and Kerry’s ‘nam experience and generally dull demeanor obviously aren’t real national security assets, but politically I think they help, even the dullness, which normally hurts him.
It would be too easy to paint Edwards as the wrong man for the times, while Kerry can project an atmosphere of seriousness, courage, and guts that will convince at least some of the electorate. In this I think the hoi polloi of the primary electorate showed better judgment than liberal elites inside the Beltway who were overly impressed by the fact that substantively Edwards is good on security. If you could win votes with substance well, then, we’d have ourselves a very different world.
The reality is that 2004 just didn’t put forward a really ideal Democratic contender, though you had lots of guys with good elements. If you could somehow merge Kerry’s (or Clark’s) biography and Edwards’ skills together, you’d have had a damn good candidate, and an Kerry-Edwards ticket is a reasonable approximation of that. And of course in 2000 the GOP nominated an inexperienced, regionally inappropriate dude with no national security cred whatsoever who was dumb to boot, and they got away with it. I’ve got to think, though, that on some level the smarter conservatives out there wish that they’d nominated someone a little more competent and a little less driven by blind dynastic ambition. All-in-all, the Democrats are in pretty good shape, even if Kerry’s not blessed with particularly impressive political skills.