And so the senator's rivals for the Democratic nomination deserve a look-see. US Representative Dennis Kucinich has been a three-decade stalwart on behalf of real issues. In our hearts we know he's right, but also that he hasn't the muscle to stop the return of the Clinton regime or its GOP counterpart. How about the old Senate warriors Chris Dodd and Joe Biden? Should we rally behind the gaffe-prone Governor Bill Richardson? The questions kind of answer themselves, don't they?
Some of us like John Edwards's populist tongue and position papers, his wonderful family, his southern charm, and the brickbats he tosses at corporate power, while acknowledging that Edwards has a cubic centimeter of chance (unlike Kucinich, who has none) to crack through the first-in-the-nation caucus next January in Iowa (where in ’04 he placed a surprise second to John Kerry) and become a contendah.
But we've seen that movie (and its formulaic sequels) before. It’s the quadrennial blockbuster where a big-money Democratic front-runner tramples the more attractive but under-funded alternative. When, in 1988, Jesse Jackson emerged as the last candidate standing between Michael Dukakis and his doomed nomination, Jackson, among other disadvantages, didn't have the millions of dollars it would have taken to ride an insurgent candidacy through to winning the Democratic National Convention.
Even if Edwards does crack through in Iowa, he won't have the resources to finish the race, and the coronation of Clinton as nominee will go according to script. I'm very sorry to say that, because the primacy of money is one of the main reasons why previous presidential campaigns made many of us want to ignore this one.
Edwards recently had to pull campaign staff out of the early caucus state of Nevada to shore up his operations in Iowa and New Hampshire. And even if those early contests go well for him, he'll have depleted his limited campaign war chest and the Clinton steamroller will flatten him in the rapid-fire march of expensive larger states that follow. And though Edwards, a successful trial lawyer, is a millionaire (his campaign estimates Edwards' net worth at $29.5 million), not even by dropping his every last silver dollar into the kitty would he break the $32 million-and-growing gap that Clinton has opened up on him this early in the game. Even if he were to open that checkbook, the Clintons' net worth is in the same league: between $10 million and $50 million, according to financial disclosure forms. In any case, none of them are at the level of a Mitt Romney or a Teresa Heinz. No Democrat would be able trump the huge amounts of money being raised for the 2008 campaign. And so, for this cycle, fundraising really does matter.
THE PRIMARY LANDSCAPE
Here is the early caucus and primary calendar. (Never mind the whining by Florida and Michigan Democrats over Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean's recent smackdown of their attempts to leapfrog the early states. The top Democratic candidates have now signed a pledge not to campaign in any states that attempt to cut in line. Michigan and Florida, if they persist, will become mere footnotes to the narrative — beauty contests that draw no actual campaigning, yield no guarantee of delegates, and provide only marginal positive bounce to their winners. There's actually the possibility of a negative bounce in feisty New Hampshire if Michigan's slated January 15 beauty contest really is held before the Granite State primary.)