Annotating “The Final Push”

Approaching the last stretch before Iowa, Edwards Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince sent out a memo entitled “The Final Push”, partially annotated below.

We enter the final week before the Iowa Caucus in a position of strength. Nearly every poll finds Edwards enjoying momentum that places us in a statistical tie with Senators Clinton and Obama for first place. CNN’s Opinion Research poll captured Edwards at 26 percent; Strategic Vision found Edwards at 27 percent.

As of now, Iowa is a tossup as Prince says. Nonetheless, Edwards does hold two important advantages. Many of his supporters are previous caucus-goers and are more likely to turn out on January 3rd. Both Clinton and Obama are relying on expanding the traditional group of caucus-goers, a strategy with a questionable track record. Edwards also is the second choice for a plurality of Iowans. Due to the nature of the Iowa caucuses, if a candidate doesn’t reach a 15% viability threshold in a given precinct, supporters are forced to disband and back another person.

But increased energy around our campaign is not limited to Iowa. In New Hampshire, we have climbed to 18 percent support in Gallup and other polls. Last Thursday in Manchester we drew over 600 people while Obama’s close by crowd was roughly 500. In Nevada, we had our best precinct recruitment week ever since we started recruiting precinct captains in the summer. In South Carolina, two recent polls have us jumping 6 percentage points while both of our opponents slide.

Left unsaid is that Edwards is still a distant third in South Carolina, a state he won handily four years ago. Among blacks, who constitute more than 50% of the vote, Edwards registers a paltry 5%. Concerning Nevada, Edwards looks to benefit from the strong union presence in the state. However, the candidates have paid little attention to the Silver State, making its role in the nominating process uncertain.

We know that Senator Clinton will spend the week touting her national security credentials in a move that echoes George Bush’s 2004 campaign. We believe Democrats will not be fooled by efforts to play on their fears.

We also expect Senator Obama to continue his attacks on Senator Edwards. As NBC News, ABC News, CNN, the New York Times, and the Des Moines Register have noted, Obama’s recent attacks on Edwards coincide with Edwards’ gaining steam on the trial. It’s no accident that Obama’s criticisms of Edwards coincide with Edwards’ uptick in recent polls. Paul Krugman observed Obama’s attack on outside labor-funded groups could actually hurt the Democratic Party.

Edwards was the first candidate to mount a major offensive against Clinton, but has now settled back into the optimistic attitude characteristic of him in ’04. Now, Clinton, and Obama to an extent, are the ones going negative, which may turn off Iowa voters. Perhaps this race will be a repeat of ’04: Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean clashed, leaving Kerry as the unintended beneficiary.

The results of the Iowa Caucus will kick-off a condensed nomination contest, and we are ready to use the momentum from a strong Iowa finish to propel us in New Hampshire and beyond. We have eight times the number of field staff in the state of New Hampshire than the Edwards campaign had in 2004; we recently added two dozen field staffers in Nevada; and we were the first candidate to run ads in South Carolina – a state Edwards won by 15 points in 2004. Given our support throughout the labor community and our advisors at work in all February 5th states, we will have the infrastructure in place to seize on momentum from strong early place finishes.

Wishful thinking. Both Clinton and Obama have significantly more resources necessary for a strong showing on February 5th. Edwards is well-positioned in Iowa but is incapable of riding the potential momentum to the nomination.

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