Assessing the Candidates: Edwards and Gore
Polls. Percent of electorate who have heard of this candidate - 85%. Favorable - 62%. Definitely support this candidate - 15%.
Primaries. If California doesn't jump in before Super Tuesday, Edwards has been dealt the best hand in the primaries. He finished second there in 2004, and his "two Americas" position strikes a strong chord with prairie populists. He currently leads all candidates there, including locals Barack Obama and Tom Vilsack. He'll get killed in New Hampshire, but should win South Carolina. That leaves Nevada, itself a fairly populist state. If, going into Super Tuesday, he has won two states and finished second in a third, he'll fare strongly in the south and probably in Utah and Oklahoma. Edwards is currently the three man nationally, but a strong showing in the early primaries would elevate him--possibly to the nomination. If Cali jumps in, however, he'll get killed.
Strengths. Edwards' strength is his populist message. Obama's easygoing manner give him the patina of populism, but Edwards has been peddling "two Americas" for four years. If the election turns on the economy, Edwards is in a good position. He's also gotten a fair amount of credit for his transparency and honesty--witness his nuanced answer to Russert about gay marriage. He could be strong with swing voters because of his Southern, religious, family-values background.
Weaknesses. Unfortunately for Edwards, Obama has joined the race. Obama is Edwards measure on family values and religion and can talk populism. Edwards also seems insubstantial in a way Obama doesn't. Edwards is uncomfortable talking about foreign policy, and it clearly doesn't excite him. This is one of the biggest problems he has, because Hillary's going to be hammering foreign policy.
Blogger/grassroots Love. Edwards has a reserve in the bank from 2004, and could win bloggers' hearts along with grassroots bread-and-butter Dems; however, he's going to have to jump Obama for their love. Call it a five, with room to grow.
Polls. Percent of electorate who have heard of this candidate - 97%. Favorable - 54%. Definitely support this candidate - 17%.
Primaries. It's a little hard to know how Gore would fare in the primaries. As his numbers show, he's off the radar right now. Having been in the wilderness for eight years has left him a shadowy figure for most people, though those, like me who know what he's been up to are amazed by his work. The question is, if he jumped into the race, would he be "Inconvenient Truth" Al or Al 2000? My assumption is that he is done running for the wrong reasons, and he'd be willing to risk losing on his own merits this time around. Based on that assumption, the primaries look very good.
He registered the second-highest percentage ever in Iowa in 2000, just a few points less than native son Tom Harkin. Hillary would still do well in New Hampshire, but his long-held position on Yucca Mountain would make him a fave in Nevada, and the Southern states would no longer be a grant to Edwards. Add in that he's the only candidate who can credibly compete in Hollywood (he may be an Oscar winner by the end of the month), and he poses the most serious challenge to Hillary.
Strengths. Gore is mostly upside. He has the most foreign policy cred and can outmuscle Hillary while endearing himself to the antiwar left. He is leading the charge on global warming, which could be a major issue by next year. He has the same connections Hillary does in fundraising, and could raise buckets of money in a short time. He is also, I believe, the only candidate besides Obama who can truly inspire. I say this because I was dead set against him in 2000, but I've become inspired by him since.
Weaknesses. Gore's main weakness is his wooden persona and wonky nature--on the podium he rarely scintilates. But everyone knows this already. Would people be willing to give him another shot remains the final question.
Blogger/grassroots Love. Gore inspires more love than Obama. He would have a ferocious grassroots effort. There's still some room to grow, so I'll call it an 8.
Sources: Time's Election Guide, Pollster.com, SurveyUSA (NH results), Strategic Vision (Iowa results)