The Mellencamp concert for John Edwards last night was a huge success for the campaign. It was well attended (easily twice the size of the Huckabee "Huck’n’Chuck" rally the night before), the crowd was enthusiastic and responded to his message. The people he assembled on the stage represented the image he was trying to put forth — working class, labor, the people who have been forgotten and disenfranchised and disempowered. They’re pissed off and they respond to Edwards’ message that you can’t reach a "bipartisan agreement" with people who won’t pay for a liver transplant for a teenage girl for the sake of profit. You’re going to have to fight them.
The whole thing was well stage-managed and the pieces were put in place for a consistent message. Elizabeth Edwards was great and Mellencamp really worked for them, but my problem was strangely — Edwards himself.
He’s better than I’ve ever seen him before and he connected with the crowd well, but the obvious comparison with Edwards was not Obama or Clinton but the populist Huckabee, who had been on that very stage the night before. Edwards doesn’t have Huckabee’s affability, his sense of humor, his ease in front of an audience. I like Edwards message, it appeals to me, but I got the sense that if I wasn’t already on his team I might not be persuaded by listening to him. Edwards speaks like a man who is convinced he’s right and will doggedly pursue his message whether people want to hear it or not. Which I respect. But Huckabee has a sense of himself as a man with a message that is right for the time, and all people need to do is hear it and they’ll think so too. The populist frame is not all that different, but one message is alienating, the other enfranchising.
Edwards could do it in Iowa. He seems to have channeled people’s economic frustrations (as opposed to amorphous frustrations with the political process) better than anyone. He’s got solid labor support and those people show up.
But if he goes forward, he needs some media training. I’m assuming he’s had plenty, but he needs someone else. Someone to lighten him up and shift his pitch to ride the wave on the left that Huckabee has surfed on the right.
I’m listening to Ron Paul speak right now to an enthusiastic audience. There’s a tremendous hunger for change in this state. The only question is — whose package are they buying?