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Dropping Like Flies

Rudy may have run the most incompetent presidential campaign in history. But he had a handicap, a fundamental problem, and we should cut him some slack because of it. Basically, people liked him less the more they got to know him. That makes campaigning hard.

Giuliani didn't actually skip all the early states. He just got no traction there. An aide to Giuliani told me he spent 44 days in New Hampshire. That's a month and a half. According to the great tick-tock by Leahy and Shear today, he often would pop in and out, seemingly in a hurry to raise cash in some distant big city. People in New Hampshire notice such things. They expect you to stay for dinner, and then coffee afterward, and then read a bedtime story to their kids. In New Hampshire they're vaguely hurt if they wake up in the morning and discover that you didn't sleep on the couch.

Now, contrast all that with John Edwards. His campaign was not only competent, it may have set some kind of record for indefatigability. (Say that 10 times fast.) Edwards was a campaigning machine. No one stumped harder for longer. He's been running for president for six years -- except for a brief period when he took time off and merely ran for vice-president. He always looked fresh, even when he'd pulled an all-nighter in his bus. Elizabeth Edwards showed great courage and good cheer in the 10 months since she discovered that her cancer had returned.

The problem is, the populist strategy has a natural ceiling of support. And he was running, as someone said recently -- Gene Robinson? -- against two phenomena. There is only so much room in a campaign narrative. He got squeezed out of the story despite all his hard work.

[Here's my Outlook piece that talked about Edwards on the campaign trail.]




[I have the best views on the road.]



By Joel Achenbach  |  January 30, 2008; 11:46 AM ET
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