John Dickerson’s observations on a day of the Edwards campaign in New Hampshire include this nugget:
“I hope you will put a really rigorous test to [the presidential candidates]. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the rhetoric. It’s not enough to talk about ‘hope‘ and ‘we’re all going to feel good.’ We’re past that. This is a very serious time in American history. It’s time for anybody running for president to treat this seriously. I have talked about hope and inspiration in the past, and they’re wonderful things, but you have to translate them into action.” The only way it could have been clearer that he was talking about Obama would have been for him to hold up the Illinois senator’s book jacket and point to it.
This could also be seen as a jab of Hillary’s husband, Bill “I still believe in a place called Hope” Clinton, and it fits nicely into the media’s pre-framed storyline of Obama “lacking substance.”
Dickerson sees Edwards positioning himself as the candidate with the detailed policy plans, and that’s all well and good, but isn’t there plenty of time for the others to reveal their own agendas more specifically in the coming months? How soon after announcing your candidacy for president do you need to lay out your precise governing agenda?
Glenn Greenwald also had a good recent post on this issue of substance in campaigns:
All of the candidates, including Obama, are going to issue a detailed health care plan soon enough. But the political system in which those health care plans — and every other specific legislative proposal — are going to be assessed, debated and processed is profoundly corrupt and broken.
Thus, any candidate who does not address those systemic political diseases is not actually being “substantive” at all, no matter how many thick white papers they issue chock full of think-tank-developed “plans.” Between (a) a candidate who understands our fundamental political problems but who has yet to issue a detailed health care plan and (b) a candidate who has all sorts of detailed, wonky legislative policies developed by aides but who has no real critique of our political culture and will do nothing but feed off of it and perpetuate it, candidate (a) is clearly the more “substantive” candidate in the way that matters.
Meanwhile, the New Hampshire polls are tightening. The guts of the poll reveal that the attention Edwards received over his wife’s cancer announcement improved his favorability ratings.
The latest poll was conducted after Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced her cancer had returned. When likely Democratic voters were asked what effect that announcement had on their view of Edwards, 85 percent said it had no effect, while the rest were almost evenly split over whether it made them view him more or less favorably.
However, when likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire were asked whether they viewed Edwards favorably or unfavorably, the poll found a roughly 10-point shift in his favor since February.
Interesting that no one says it’s the cancer announcement itself that shifted their support toward Edwards. As he said on 60 Minutes, he doesn’t want sympathy votes. Rather, voters seem to like how he has handled the situation.