As M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News wrote on Wednesday, Democratic Presidential contender John Edwards has been telling voters on the stump that he is not only the “most electable” of the donkeys running for the White House, but he will give them the best chance to win contested seats around the country:
When he wasn’t pitching his health care plans or talking about fighting poverty last weekend, he was telling crowds of Iowa voters — and gaggles of reporters — why he thinks he’s the Democrat who stands the best chance in the most closely-contested congressional districts and states where U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs.
What Edwards is referring to here is that with his name at the top of the ticket in 2008, Democrats in highly-contested statewide races – such as Rep. Mark Udall in Colorado – will have a better chance of winning against their Republican opponents. This Presidential trickle-down effect can be very real, but it doesn’t always matter; Democrat Ken Salazar defeated Pete Coors in the 2004 Senate race even though Republican George Bush captured the popular vote for President in Colorado.
So is Edwards correct that he would be the best candidate for other Democrats around the country? I think it’s too early to tell. Udall needs a Democratic Presidential candidate who will encourage moderate Democrats and Unaffiliated voters to come out to the polls; if they come out to vote because of the Democratic Presidential candidate, it follows that they will be likely to vote for Udall as well. It’s too early to tell if Edwards would be more likely to get those moderate voters in Colorado to come to the polls, because it’s too early to really gauge potential matchups. Would Edwards be better for Udall if he were the nominee against a Republican like Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney? With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama still polling better than Edwards, it’s too soon to really make that assessment.
I don’t think we’ll be able to really start to gauge a potential trickle-down effect until next spring, once the field has started to thin out a little. Right now every Democratic candidate is trying to play to the base, but Udall needs to know who will play better with the center. If I had to make a choice, I think the best potential candidate for Udall is probably a guy who isn’t even in the race yet – Al Gore. As a popular former Vice President who is the spokesperson for the hottest issue – literally – on the planet right now, Gore could be the type of candidate who could inspire otherwise bored voters to come to the polls in November 2008.