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Advisory: North Carolina politics expert available for comment on John Edwards

By Jacob McConnico
336.758.5237
January 21, 2004

Jack Fleer, professor emeritus of political science at Wake Forest University and author of the book “North Carolina Politics,” is available to comment on U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ presidential run. Fleer has been a keen observer of North Carolina politics for more than 30 years, and he has followed Edwards’ career since 1998 when he won the U.S. Senate seat during his first run for office.

Fleer says that Edwards has begun to gain momentum because he presents himself well and delivers a clear message that focuses on middle-class issues. This momentum might continue into the Jan. 27 New Hampshire primaries, he says.

“Even though he (Edwards) runs into questioning about his experience and youth, he has been able to overcome that with his presentations,” Fleer says. “He really does have a comprehensive program that focuses on middle-class, kitchen-table problems like affording a home, affording health care, affording college and affording daycare.”

Edwards’ Southern roots could also be a boon as the Democratic Party looks for a likely candidate to run against George Bush, Fleer says.

“Edwards might come closer than any other candidate to making the South a place where the Republican Party and the Bush campaign would have to put in more of an investment,” Fleer says.

Contact Fleer directly at 336-758-5865, or through Jacob McConnico at mcconnjn@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237 or 5238.

Select quotes from Jack Fleer regarding John Edwards:

  • “I have sort of been referring to Edwards as a David and Goliath kind of candidate because he was the low guy on the totem pole in Iowa, and he came out in second place. Similarly, the odds were against him in 1998 when he ran for his U.S. Senate seat against a powerful incumbent, Lauch Faircloth. The two are examples of Edwards overcoming odds in situations where he wasn’t given much chance to win elections. He didn’t technically win in Iowa, but I think he won in many ways more support relative to his expectations than what John Kerry did.”
  • “The thing that Edwards has done in politics and throughout his life is to set some goals and a plan to achieve those goals and then carry through with that plan. He is a very disciplined person from what I can tell.”
  • “In Iowa, Edwards wasn’t lulled into the criticism of other candidates who were competing against him. He has a Southern, genteel way of contrasting himself with the other candidates. He talks about opponents coming from a different place or candidates having a different experience. He doesn’t say they have no experience or bad experience or that they are not good people. He just says they are different. In some ways, that is sort of a Southern genteel way of pointing out contrast without necessarily going negative.”
  • “I was surprised frankly that Edwards did as well as he did in Iowa. I think that probably his message and his positive demeanor were extraordinarily well-taken in Iowa. He is going to have a tougher time in New Hampshire, but he certainly has momentum on his side.”
  • “Edwards’ second-place finish is the big story of Iowa because Kerry started out months ago as a front-runner.”
  • “Kerry and Dean are sort of regional candidates in New Hampshire. That may well be an issue working against Edwards. New Hampshire is unpredictable.”
  • “Being a recent victor and not being from the area might lower the expectations in New Hampshire for Edwards.”

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