is it still john edwards that they fear?

Oliva passed along a link to this article on Republican strategy in the comments section a few days ago and I thought that it was worth a mention here on the front page. I’m interested to know what you make of it… Here’s a clip:

. . . Rove’s weeklong broadside against Clinton — which he is expected to repeat in multiple appearances on television talk shows today — looks suspiciously like an exercise in reverse psychology that his team employed three years ago when it was preparing for President Bush’s reelection bid.

The ploy was described by Rove lieutenant Matthew Dowd during a postmortem conference on the 2004 election at Harvard University the month after Bush defeated Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when it was not yet clear who Bush’s opponent would be that November, Rove and his aides had begun to fear that their most dangerous foe would be then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

With his Southern base, charismatic style and populist message, Edwards, they believed, could be a real threat to Bush’s reelection.

But instead of attacking Edwards, Rove’s team opened fire at Kerry.

Their thinking went like this, Dowd explained: Democrats, in a knee-jerk reaction to GOP attacks, would rally around Kerry, whom Rove considered a comparatively weak opponent, and make him the party’s nominee. Thus Bush would be spared from confronting Edwards, the candidate Republican strategists actually feared most.

Unlike Kerry, who had been in public service for decades, Edwards was a political newcomer and lacked a long record that could be attacked. And, unlike former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who had been the front-runner but whose campaign was collapsing in Iowa, Edwards couldn’t easily be painted as “nutty.”

If that sounds implausibly convoluted, consider Dowd’s own words:

“Whomever we attacked was going to be emboldened in Democratic primary voters’ minds.

“So we started attacking John Kerry a lot in the end of January because we were very worried about John Edwards,” Dowd said. “And we knew that if we focused on John Kerry, Democratic primary voters would sort of coalesce” around Kerry….

Is Rove playing a similar game against Clinton? Is he trying to stampede Democrats into nominating her, having concluded that Obama, Edwards or someone else would pose a stiffer challenge to the Republican nominee?

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7 Comments

  1. Steph
    Posted August 23, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    See also:

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2007/08/22/trippi_rove_ignores_edwards_be.html

    And Edwards is using it to raise money:

    https://johnedwards.com:443/action/contribute/roves-nightmare

  2. Mark H.
    Posted August 23, 2007 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Yes I think Rove wants his party to run against Hillary because he thinks she can be marginalized and defeated. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong. Hillary would not make the kind of campaign mistakes that Kerry did.

  3. mark
    Posted August 23, 2007 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Southern Democrats have proven that they can win the popular vote (Gore included), that’s got to make Rove and others nervous. If I were them, I’d want to run against Hillary. I know it’s a pretty small sample, but I don’t know anyone personally that’s enthusiastic about her candidacy. I know people that would vote for her if she were the candidate, but I don’t think they’d be happy about it. And I don’t think that even sticking Obama on the ticket would change that. People aren’t passionate about her and they never will be. She sold out on healthcare and she supported the war. She’s a political animal through and through and people don’t respect that. They want authenticity, and she doesn’t have it.

  4. Ol E' Cross
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Hillary has already made the the same campaign mistake as Kerry: believing she can be elected.

  5. Robert
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Rove and his people just need it to be close enough to fix. Most people have made up their minds on Hillary, and an election with her as the Democratic candidate would almost certainly be close.

    Why do you people keep talking about Kerry as though his campaigned failed? The only serious thing they failed at doing was making sure there wouldn’t be massive election fraud in Ohio, not to mention the half dozen other states where it was obviously a determining factor in which way the electoral votes were delivered.

    Now the Gulianni, Clinton and to some degree Obama camps are trying to pressure their people in Michigan to move that primary up ahead of Iowa’s caucus and New Hampshire’s primary. Edwards is ahead in Nevada, and I am seeing more and more indications that he is ahead here in Iowa.

    The manager of Edward’s Council Bluffs office told me yesterday that he believes it’s a move force Iowa to move their caucus up even earlier. In his opinion, their strategy is to be able to claim that Iowa is too early to be relevant.
    It’s really hard to gauge how Republicans here are going to vote in their caucus, but I the feeling Rudy’s personal life doesn’t play well with these heartlanders.

    Another scary development is happening in California, where Republicans are trying to break up the electoral votes awarded in the general. If they succeed, you can forget about any Democrat winning in 2008.

  6. oliva
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Why do you people keep talking about Kerry as though his campaigned failed? The only serious thing they failed at doing was making sure there wouldn’t be massive election fraud in Ohio, not to mention the half dozen other states where it was obviously a determining factor in which way the electoral votes were delivered.

    Massive election fraud aside (ha, not easy to put something like that aside!), Kerry just wasn’t the best choice for such an important election. How many people do you know who were Kerry supporters before the primary? I count two, and they were not their usual flamboyantly supportive selves about their pick.

    I hope, and it’s audacious to hope! that people will reject the “naive” label being pinned on Obama and choose this path, maybe a shared Obama-Edwards ticket (or Gore, Feingold), of hope and change and fresh, discernible intelligence.

  7. mark
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Good points, all.

    Robert, if you have the time and inclination, I’d welcome the occasional post from the campaign trail.

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