Congratulations to Barack Obama for a strong, kick-ass victory in South Carolina and a beautiful, stirring speech. That refrain “Yes We Can” is just what people need to hear. We just wish he’d kicked one butt instead of two (by coming in second).
John Edwards’s campaign strategists have been calling in to ask our advice, and here’s what we tell them: Johnny, it’s the economy. You were right to capitalize on voters’ fatigue with Obama–Clinton squabbles, but give us specific economic remedies and repeat over and over. Economic Security for a Change.
We’re tired of most things Clinton, but ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid,’ still rings true. Senator Edwards, every time you get in front of a camera or a microphone—at a campaign rally or when you’re asked ‘When will you quit?’—don’t tell us what you’ll do in the campaign, tell us what you’ll do in the Oval Office: Strengthen the economy, provide unemployment relief, introduce health care coverage for all Americans, restore regulation of the financial markets, end the wars’ strain on the national budget, and so on. Give specifics, crisply focused, as you do so well. Combine ‘It’s the Economy’ with ‘Yes We Can.’
Instead, in your South Carolina concession speech, you repeated the phrase ‘For those who are worried about X, we will make your voice heard . . .’ Do not focus on worry. Focus on hope, and show us how you’d get the job done. Hope + practicality. Yes We Can, and Here’s Our Plan.
As the New York Times  points out, you have “often steered the conversation on policy,” and you were “the first candidate to outline a universal health care plan and an economic stimulus proposal.” Sir, you’ve got the stuff. Now project it.
At a time when Wall Street and world financial markets are unnerved by weaknesses in the U.S. economy, you should be explaining what you would do to stabilize the markets, extend unemployment coverage, reduce the trade imbalance, end upper-income tax cuts, reduce health insurance strains on businesses’ bottom line, and so on.
Obama speaks beautifully and inspires like no one else. Edwards could restore confidence too by telling everyone who will listen specifically what he proposes to do to end the war, revitalize the national economy, promote energy independence and build a “clean energy economy,” and so on. Edwards can’t out-Obama Obama, but he is a gifted speaker and a passionate campaigner with deep reserves of optimism, and he should not be coming in third place.
(Maybe, to play the media’s game and ‘gain more camera,’ should Edwards also start launching some attacks on Hillary’s running-mate attack dog?)
Finally, the Clintons don’t seem to get it: Much of the public’s hunger for ‘change’ means ‘Deliver us from the same-old same-old’ Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. The change we want is something Billary can’t deliver. Period. It’s beginning to feel as though the Clinton fatigue felt even by Democrats in the late ’90s was just a warm-up. Enough. We’ve said too much about them already.