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Being John Edwards

Tom Opliphant points out that John Edwards actually fared much better than Kerry did among independents. He thinks there are lessons here that the Kerry team must learn now that we are moving into the general election season.

I think his analysis is spot-on, and that Edwards does indeed have a broader appeal to the segment of the electorate that will ultimately decide this contest. I can now 'fess up that Edwards scared me much more than any other Democrat in the field. By the same token, I viewed Kerry as the least threatening of the serious candidates, and still do.

Kerry would certainly do well for himself and his party if he could now simply turn himself into John Edwards, but how does one do that? The answer isn't obvious. I'm just not sure that "Being John Edwards" can be taught or learned. Their voting records in the Senate are not all that different, nor is the substance of their stump speeches. I'm afraid much of what separates them is charisma, charm, a certain telegenic appeal and what Simon Cowell would call "the X factor". Either you've got it or you don't, I'm afraid.

Kerry always has the option of tapping Edwards as a running mate, but how much good will that really do? Choosing a running mate is a bit like navigating a minefield, because even a good choice isn't going to net you a lot of additional votes, but a bad choice can certainly cost you plenty.

I'm sure Kerry's handlers will read this piece. They'll also probably not in agreement with much of it. Knowing that something needs to be fixed and knowing how to fix it, however, are two very different things.