Local Politics

Analysts: Edwards Faces Uphill Battle

Posted January 4, 2008 5:07 p.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2008 6:58 p.m. EST

— With a second place finish in the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, John Edwards shifted his focus to New Hampshire and to chipping away support for Hillary Clinton to keep his campaign moving in the right direction.

After edging out the New York senator and former First Lady, Edwards claims he's in a two-person race for the Democratic nomination with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who captured the first prize of the nomination process in Iowa.

Political analysts said Friday that Edwards, a Chapel Hill resident and former U.S. senator from North Carolina, faces an uphill fight in New Hampshire, where he's lagged a distant third in the polls. The Granite State will hold the first presidential primary of 2008 next Tuesday.

"It's easier to say Edwards didn't do well in Iowa, but his campaign says – and it's true – he beat Hillary. That is an accomplishment," said Gary Pearce, a Democratic strategist.

Edwards has labeled Obama and Clinton as the big-money, celebrity candidates. Despite coming up short in Iowa, the Edwards campaign claimed record online fundraising on Friday.

"Message and what you stand for matters more than money," Edwards said. "I think we're in a good place, and I'm going to fight with everything I've got (in New Hampshire)."

But Republican consultant Carter Wrenn said credibility hurts Edwards more than his lack of money when facing off against Obama and Clinton.

"Edwards has to try to knock Hillary out of this race and then hope when it gets to be just him and Obama (that) he has a shot," Wrenn said. "(But) Obama's the real thing and Edwards is not, and that's his problem."

Pearce and Wrenn agreed that Edwards doesn't have to win New Hampshire to survive. The real pressure comes later, they said.

"Edwards did not do well there four years ago. I don't think expectations are that high. South Carolina is sort of his challenge," Wrenn said.

The South Carolina primary is in three weeks. It is Edwards' native state, and it marked his only primary victory in 2004. But he trails Obama and Clinton in the polls there this year.

"You could get hurt in South Carolina, and that could cripple you. But it's a long way to go," Pearce said.