Picture Edwards, Obama and Clinton in your head - what do you see?

For weeks now, former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, has been claiming that he's the most "electable" of the top three presidential candidates in his party. That he can win in parts of the country that Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Barack Obama, D-Illinois, cannot.

The argument is that Edwards is a Southerner from a rural background and can make Red states competitive. That Edwards is culturally of a Red State. That he is able to speak the language of the Reagan Democrat, Joe Sixpack, Mike Lunchpail.

The argument is NOT, the Edwards campaign insists, that Edwards as a white man is more electable than a white woman or a black man.

At the Youtube/CNN debate in July, Edwards very clearly stated, "Anybody who's considering not voting for Senator Obama because he's black or for Senator Clinton because she's a woman, I don't want their vote."

But take a listen to these comments from Edwards (CLICK HERE) from an October 8 event in Mount Ayr, Iowa, and see whether you think there's anything in there, implicitly, about his being a white man.

"If you're running in a tough congressional district…you gotta ask yourself would you rather have Senator Obama at the top of the ticket to help, Senator Clinton at the top of the ticket to help, or John Edwards at the top of the ticket to help," Edwards asks.

Edwards goes on to say, "your instincts will tell you the right answer."

You'll want someone you agree with, of course, "but you'll also want somebody who can help pull Democrats all over the country… You gotta ask yourself who's going to turn out more Republicans to vote against us at the top of our ticket. Who's gonna attract more middle of the road voters? You know, who's gonna feel more of a connection...

“But the bottom line is. I think the easiest way to do it, honestly, is to just picture in your head, each of us, running in a tough place –- we’re in one right now –- and which one’s gonna be more helpful and which one’s not. 'Cause I think that does matter."

For weeks I've rejected the notion that Edwards is making this appeal on anything other than cultural values, his Southern twang and roots….but that "picture in your head" clause is interesting.

Especially since Edwards strategist Mudcat Saunders has heralded Edwards' ability to get the votes of poor whites all over the country.

"There's not a 50 cent difference in Bubba in Buncombe County, North Carolina, and Iowa or New Hampshire or wherever else," Saunders told Men's Vogue. "We are all from basically the same set of circumstances, and a rural campaign is not just a Southern campaign. It's about the heart and soul of rural America. And John believes strongly in it...We’re going to get some white males…The other candidates I've seen are looking at that same 19-state strategy. We're well into the twenties on our strategy.”

And some folks who don't support Edwards thought this comment from Edwards' traveling companion -- former Rep.Ben Jones, D-Georgia, who you may better know as "Cooter" from ''The Dukes of Hazard" -- was interesting.

''John Edwards is the kind of guy who can not only lead this country in these very difficult times and bring it back together," Jones said, "but he's also a Democrat who can be elected in Hazard County -- if you know what I mean -- in the red states, out in the country."

In Hazard County? (Ifyouknowwhatimean?)

Where our heroes drive around in a car festooned with the Confederate flag?

(''Let me put it this way, I think the world of Barack Obama and he is the future of this party," Jones went on. "Hillary Clinton and Slick Willie and those people, they are the past. John Edwards is the present for the Democratic Party.'')

Last week, a number of Edwards supporters -- local Democratic officials --held a conference call warning that only Edwards would be able to help other Democrats on the ticket.

“Here's the deal," said Missouri Minority Whip Connie Johnson, who is African-American, "If we don't have a good person at the top of the ticket - someone who can help stop the hemorrhaging in Missouri, then we'll go red. It's as simple as that. And it will affect state reps, state senators, treasurers, governors, everybody. If Hillary comes to a state like Missouri, we can write it off." (You can listen to her HERE)

I understand the argument that Hillary Clinton has high negatives and is polarizing....but why is Obama part of this pitch that only Edwards isn't polarizing?

Another point -- one could argue that as the vice presidential nominee, Edwards didn't really do much in 2004 -- not only did not one Southern state go for Kerry-Edwards, including Edwards' native North Carolina, the ticket lost even Edwards' hometown Robbins, and Edwards currently trails behind Clinton among Democrats in the Tarheel State.

(Edwards has argued that no one votes for vice president, which is more or less true.)

In any case, what do you make of this all?

- jpt

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