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Edwards' (Seriously Flawed) Electability Argument

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The Edwards campaign latest justification for remaining in the race is that John Edwards is the ONLY electable Democratic candidate (as opposed to a similar but very different argument that Edwards is more electable than the other candidates). The campaign started making this argument after Iowa and has expanded on it ever since. Recently, Edwards has been arguing that he’s the candidate that can take on John McCain, saying:

“I think it’s important for us to have somebody run against McCain who can beat him..And national polls show that I’m the one who beats John McCain in the general election.”

Rural Adviser to John Edwards, Mudcat Saunders echoed the campaign’s assertion-fest with a post on Huffington Post. Saunders states, but doesn’t really substantiate this contention:

It should be clear to anybody with over a 50 IQ that my boy John Edwards, with his combination of red state electoral experience and toughness, is the only candidate who can beat John McCain. Whether you believe polls or not, polls from CNN to Rasmussen say just that.

And it should be equally as clear to anybody with over a 25 IQ that Obama and Clinton are going to render each other totally unelectable against any Republican, especially John McCain, by the time we get to the convention.

All the Republicans have to be loving this. Because the Democrat they don’t want to face, John Edwards, is getting sandwiched between the coverage of this murderous cat fight between two so-called “historical” candidates who, when all is said and done, will be just that. HISTORY.

To begin, it’s just flat out silly to predicate an argument for electability solely on poll numbers. Polls, as recently demonstrated, are not definitive. Moreover, polls 10-11 months ahead of an election are even more insignificant. Finally, the numbers for Obama v. McCain and Hillary Clinton v. McCain are not so unbelievably one sided as to suggest that it would be impossible for either Clinton or Obama to beat McCain should he be the Republican nominee.

Additionally, there’s inherent flaw within Edwards’ argument. He contends that based upon the current polls, only he can beat McCain. This, of course, requires the assumption that the numbers are inflexible, relatively static and thus unlikely to change come November. That said, if polls are legitimate indicators of support (as the campaign seems to suggest), then why should trends in the Democratic primary be any different? In other words, Edwards is arguing that you should vote for him, despite his very low poll numbers in the Democratic primary, because some polls show Hillary and Obama losing in a match up against McCain. Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that the numbers aren’t flexible, I’m just demonstrating how silly the logic of Edwards’ argument is when analyzed.

The Edwards campaign also criticizes both Obama and Clinton for attacking each other and suggests that its the battled between Obama and Clinton that is undermining the Democratic Party’s chance for victory in ’08. I’m unclear as to why Edwards has the authority to criticize either candidate for negative attacks, when his campaign has levied some pretty scathing attacks when they believed it would suit them, such as Elizabeth Edwards questioning Hillary Clinton’s record on women’s issues or Edwards suggestion that his rivals are corporate Democrats (just a few the past); and more recently, with Edwards adding to the Obama-Rezko narrative by recounting a private discussion with Hillary on the subject (isn’t this a very similar tactic that Joe Trippi attacked Mark Penn for?). It’s worth noting that I’m not necessarily criticizing Edwards for the aforementioned criticisms of his opponents. What I am criticizing, as I have in the past, is Edwards doing one thing and then later taking the high ground on the same issue. You simply cannot argue that your opponents attacks on each other are bad for the party, when you participated in tough attacks yourself. That’s really all I’m saying.

Moving on to the core of Edwards’ electability, I offer the following considerations…

[Continued at 2008Central.net]