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

By Jacob McConnico
336.758.5237
January 29, 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 although Edwards exceeded expectations in Iowa, finishing second to Sen. John Kerry, his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire makes it crucial for him to win convincingly in South Carolina. It will not be easy, Fleer says, because there are four viable candidates competing in that state Feb. 3. They include Edwards, Kerry, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and the Rev. Al Sharpton, Fleer says.

“(Edwards’) second place finish in Iowa keeps him in the game, but I do believe his New Hampshire finish puts greater pressure on his winning in South Carolina, and it probably means he needs to win big there,” Fleer said. “A win in itself would be good, but a win of some magnitude would be better for him. He also has to come in first or second in one or more of the other six states with primaries Feb. 3.”

Fleer says Edwards could do well in Oklahoma because it is a conservative state, and he has positioned himself as a moderate throughout his campaign. In addition, Missouri could come through for Edwards because he has spent considerable time there.

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:

  • “If Edwards were to place first or maybe even second in Missouri and win South Carolina on Feb. 3, it would be a huge boost for him. He could also do well in Oklahoma since he is moderate and he has spent a lot of time in that state.”
  • “Even though (Edwards) runs into questioning about his experience and youth, he has been able to overcome that with his presentations. 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 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 of time and money in a presidential race.”
  • “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 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.”

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