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Advisory: Politics expert Jack Fleer says Edwards is survivor in race for nomination

By Jacob McConnico
336.758.5237
February 18, 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 former Vermont governor Howard Dean’s announcement that he will drop out of the running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president could be a boost for Edwards.

“This is a major step because Edwards is the survivor in the race,” Fleer said. “This clearly brings it down to a two-person race and for Edwards that is a positive thing. I still don’t think it alters the most likely outcome which is (Sen. John) Kerry, but it does strengthen the possibility of Edwards being on the ticket.”

Fleer says Edwards’ finish in Wisconsin is telling because exit polls show that he remains popular with independent voters and moderate Republicans. That is going to be important in winning for the Democrats, Fleer says, because they cannot beat George W. Bush with their own base of voters. If Edwards is on the ticket, either as the presidential or vice presidential candidate, it might be a plus for the Democrats, 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:

  • “One of the key results from all of these primaries has been Edwards’ appeal to the independent voters and moderate Republicans. That is going to be a very important thing in winning for the Democrats. They cannot win with their own base. They have got to find support among independents and moderates from the other party.”
  • “I don’t see Edwards changing his campaign style much. He feels that this positive approach is working for him and in a sense it is. I think he has had plenty of opportunities to be critical of Kerry in the past couple of weeks, but he has avoided doing that. I think if he were to go on the attack he would become more of a fraud in other people’s minds.”
  • “Edwards did very well in Wisconsin, but I still think he is a long shot for the nomination.”
  • “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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