John Edwards, the sex-appeal candidate, looked pretty. Informed by Stephanopoulos that he was viewed by Dems as “having plenty of charisma but no policy depth or experience,” Edwards kept returning to his poor-boy rap about his origins making him “someone who understands people.” Well, he’s a multimillionaire now, and the sympathetic-sounding but vague generalities he delivered did little to dispel the notion that he was a policy-lite DLC centrist with a populist rhetorical face-lift.
On this crowded platform, with each contender limited to 90-second responses, no one shone, none broke through with a clear and concise message. As George Wallace advised Jesse Jackson when he came to visit the old ex-seg during the Rev’s first presidential campaign, “You’ve got to keep your message so close to the ground the goats can get at it.” But none of the nine has yet honed his message into a simple and comprehensible soundbite or a slogan that can fit on a bumper sticker — at least not one that has the power and appeal of Bush’s simplistic (and oh-so-wrong-headed) mantra, “Cut Taxes.”
Moreover, Bush came under little fire in this internecine jockeying for advantage among those who would replace him. The leading Dems have been cowed for so long by Bush’s war-driven poll numbers that they seem to have gotten out of the habit of attacking him. And “the vision thing” was noticeably lacking in the South Carolina Democratic cattle call.
If the Democrats can’t get their act together, you’d better get used to those chants of “Four More Years!”