Edwards' appeal to moderates

Published July 6, 2004 2:34PM (EDT)

What might John Edwards bring to the ticket other than his patented wide grin and a touch of Southern twang? Broad appeal to certain moderate Republican constituencies, naturally. An article in the Gadflyer on pollster Celinda Lake's recent work explains:

"Celinda Lake's survey findings offer further validation of Edwards' demographic appeal to important constituencies that will decide the election.

"Lake identifies five 'Republican opportunity' groups -- that is, five demographic groups that lean Republican but are potentially winnable by the Democrats this year. They are (with share of total electorate in parentheses): devout Catholics (9 percent); white married moms (10); older, white blue-collar men (10); white post-graduate men (6); rural white women (12).

"Whether Kerry's Catholicism is help or hindrance, the first GOP opportunity subgroup is his alone to win or lose. But Edwards' style and story could lure key segments of the other four groups to the Democratic ticket in sufficient numbers to push Kerry over the top in key states. To wit:

"- Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, are ambassadors ideally suited to approach suburban, white wives because, aside from his trail lawyer background, the Edwards family typifies the modern, exurban family that is leaning ever more Republican;

"- The senator's stories about how he paid his way for school emptying tractor trailers in 100-degree heat allow him to connect with blue-collar men striving to make a better life for themselves and their children;

"- As a still-young professional, Edwards can explain to successful white male professionals why conservative policies used to appeal to them are deceptive, shortsighted distractions from the more truly future-oriented education and investment programs to which conservatives mostly pay lip service; and

"- Finally, with his southern and bootstrap biography, Edwards can bring to rural American audiences his personal experiences, rather than mere platitudes, in ways few politicians can.

"Notice, too, the gender specificity of these persuadable groups. As Lake points out (to great laughter from audiences), 73 percent of husbands say their wives will vote the same way they will, yet only 49 of their wives say the same about their husbands. There's a growing disconnect within households, even rural households a tension that John and Elizabeth Edwards, especially in tandem, could be very useful in exploiting."

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Stephen W. Stromberg

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room