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

By Jacob McConnico
336.758.5237
February 5, 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’ win in South Carolina Feb. 3, combined with his strong second-place showing in Iowa and virtual tie with retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark in Oklahoma, keeps him in the running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. A win in either Tennessee or Virginia on Feb. 10 would be a huge boost to his campaign.

“If (Sen. John) Kerry or Clark were to win in one of those states (Tennessee or Virginia) it would certainly slow down Edwards’ momentum, but my feeling now is that (Edwards) is at least planning to stay in the race up to Wisconsin (Feb. 17),” Fleer said. “I think it is necessary for him to stay in the race at least that long because he still needs to prove that he can win outside the South.”

Fleer says Edwards should do well in Tennessee and Virginia because they are both neighbor states to North Carolina. However, Clark has spent considerable time and money in Tennessee and Kerry could do well in a moderate state like Virginia.

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:

• “He has to win or at least be competitive in both of the Southern states (Tennessee and Virginia), and then he has to win or either have a really close race in Wisconsin on Feb. 17 to stay alive.”

• “I think Tennessee is the tougher of the two for Edwards because it is a state where Clark has put in a tremendous amount of effort. It looks like Clark has made Tennessee an important stand for him just like he did in Oklahoma. One thing I think Edwards might have going for him in Tennessee is that of the two (Edwards and Clark), Edwards can make the argument that he is a more viable candidate and probably also a candidate who can beat Bush.”

• “Virginia is a good state for Edwards because I think he has got it a little more to himself. The one problem that he might have is with Kerry because Virginia has this huge northern section, which is heavily populated, pretty Democratic and probably more moderate to liberal in its Democratic leanings than the rest of the state. The issue for Edwards in Virginia is the extent to which he can compete successfully with Kerry.”

• “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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