So it’s a two-man race (and no, I don’t mean Sharpton-Kucinich). On one hand, the new competition is being positioned as the solid and electable warrior against the young, exciting, smooth-talking, up-and-coming, natural. Recent polls indicate that in fact both candidates may fill the requirement of electability (suggesting the “vs Bush” numbers may have more to do with him than his potential opponent). Can Edwards really make a move to challenge Kerry? So far he has only surprised as far as second place. The media wants more of the race (and why not, without it they’d be left to those pesky issues). Edwards has surged this far, why not a bit more?
But in a sense, the potential for a last minute upset is more about Kerry than it is about Edwards. Kerry managed wonderfully his transition from disappointment to front-runner. He successfully highlighted the key parts of his biography. But since then, some of the excitement has been drained from the Kerry campaign. He stopped improving. He’s got the electability thing, but he needs to motivate voters beyond that in a hurry. Edwards is clearly filling a void; a desire not just for a race but for a candidate to love. Kerry must fill that void himself if he is to have a shot in the general election (assuming he can survive the nominating process without doing so).
Kerry is still clearly the man to beat. But while he has successfully convinced us that he has been in a war, he hasn’t convinced enough people to go to war for him. Kerry the war hero must turn his boat around once more. If the troops are to follow, the winning battle cry will be neither “electability” nor “anyone but Bush.”