Thursday, March 29, 2007

Could Eliz. Edwards Cancer Recurrence Resurrect Mark Warner's Campaign?

Despite the brave face put on by John and Elizabeth Edwards, the recurrence and spread of her cancer have to be devastating news. For now, John says he will continue the campaign, urged on by Elizabeth. We don't doubt their sincerity--Elizabeth is clearly a strong and resolute woman.

The lingering question, however, is where the Edwards campaign will be in six months or so. Treatments for Elizabeth's cancer are bound to take a toll. They have small children. And this is an unusually long election campaign. John Edwards is, by presidential standards, still a young man. He could ultimately decide to withdraw from the race to deal with his wife's illness and still make a comeback down the road (perhaps, at some point, running for Governor of North Carolina to get some executive experience).

IF Edwards were to withdraw by this Fall, it would open the door to reconsideration by former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Although Warner withdrew from the race last year, citing the toll it would take on his family, he's still going around the country meeting with small groups of Democratic activists. He has enough personal money to jump start a campaign late in the season.

While the betting is that Warner is trying to position himself as the Dems VP nominee, he might very well see an Edwards exodus as an opportunity. It would be a tough calculus--on the one hand, getting back in would certainly burn all bridges with Hillary's supporters. On the other hand, we still think Warner ultimately would be a strong general election candidate, with tremendous appeal to moderate independent voters. While we think highly of both Hillary and Obama, we're concerned that in head-to-head polls with Guiliani and McCain, they generally lose.

One would think that at this point in the game, with Bush's popularity in the toilet and Republicans on the defensive, the head-to-head match-ups would go for just about any leading Democratic contender. That hasn't been the case, and while we're still a long way from the general election, it belies serious problems with how independent voters view the leading Democratic contenders.

(We also think there's still a good chance the Republican Party will melt down into Baghdad like strife, especially after Gingrich enters the race--which we're increasingly confident will occur--and either nominate someone besides Guiliani or McCain, or launch a splinter movement for a conservative third-party candidate. If that happens, Democrats chances in '08 vastly improve.)

We're not making any predictions, certainly not at this point. But if you have a "Warner '08" bumper sticker or pin, hang on to it, at least for now.

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