January 10, 2008

Edwards for Governor?

Here's a question. If John Edwards had run for governor of North Carolina in 1998, instead of U.S. Senator, would he have had a better shot at the presidency in 2004? Perhaps he could have instituted universal health care in NC, or some innovative environmental initiative, or an anti-poverty program that stunned pundits and experts.

It might have given him firmer policy ground to stand on, plus some international resume-building through foreign trade missions and the like. Many political scientists point to the executive power in the governor's office, the slate of programs that make up an agenda, that translates easily into the language and PR imagery of a presidential bid. But being governor and living in Annapolis or Tallahassee or Richmond also just makes it easier to run against Washington, D.C. Jimmy Carter was the ultimate outsider when he walked out of the peanut fields and into the White House in 1970.

North Carolina is not a "megastate" like Florida, but it's got beach tourism, the Research Triangle, and lots of agriculture--a large dynamic economy. The explosion of the Raleigh-Durham intellectual zone is turning the state blue politically, bit by bit. Edwards' home in Orange County borders this progressive Democratic oasis.

If Barack Obama were to become president, it would throw a big wrench in the theory that governors, like small presidents, know best how to manage a massive workforce, balance a budget, and ultimately win the White House.

If Edwards fails this time, maybe he will use Chapel Hill as a platform for running for governor. North Carolina Governor Mike Easley is term-limited and Edwards already has loads of name recognition and time to campaign. What a roundabout journey that would be. If he ran, won, and governed well, it could be the last but best stage of his political career.

No comments: