The Note: Secret Weapon


It's been said before that the best thing about former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., is his wife. And even as her husband wraps up the "poverty tour" he hopes will reinvent his campaign, Elizabeth Edwards' sharp tongue is again dominating the 2008 race -- and that may actually be a good thing for the candidate.

In a jab that will be the subject of a good dissertation on feminism some day, Elizabeth Edwards posited that her husband -- not Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. -- is the best candidate for female voters. "Sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues," she said when discussing Clinton in an interview with "I'm not convinced she'd be as good an advocate for women."

Straight-talking spousal comments are often massively distracting to campaigns. (Imagine if Teresa Heinz Kerry had taken a swipe at Laura Bush, or if President Clinton were to argue that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., isn't man enough for the job.) But whether it's her battle with cancer, her real-mom looks, or her general likeability, there looks to be little downside for Edwards in having his wife mix it up.

"Gender Bender," read the Drudge headline. The New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff saw Mrs. Edwards "trashing the New York senator as too quiet on feminist issues and too muddled on abortion." McAuliff noted that "the Clinton campaign declined to comment, although Clinton herself promised during her campaign rollout that she'd 'deck' any opponent who attacked her."

Edwards himself stood by his wife's comments, telling reporters in Pittsburgh, "Her point was on these big substantive issues that directly effect women's lives, I've been aggressive and leading on them, ABC's Raelyn Johnson reports. We'll be seeing more of Elizabeth, too: She is featured in a new TV ad airing in New Hampshire, where she talks about her husband's "unbelievable toughness," including his ability to "stare the worst in the face and not blink."

We hope his fortitude extends to bad poll numbers; the latest poll out of New Hampshire has Edwards in fourth place, behind Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.

Edwards' chief rivals for the presidency, meanwhile, did the early-morning speechifying thing in the Senate. The sound of those ancient cots being wheeled into the Capitol last night may have drowned out the cries of the anti-war left for a little while. But Democratic congressional leaders are going to need much more than all-night speeches, quorum calls, and candlelight vigils to deliver even a sliver of what their base expects on Iraq.

Consider the state of affairs mid-way through their first year back in power: The US has more troops in Iraq than it did six months ago, and Democrats have no realistic prospects for forcing a withdrawal at least through the summer, if not for the rest of 2007. The Democrats are suffering from their own high expectations -- their approval ratings are lower than Bush's (though that tends to happen to congressional leaders), and they aren't ready to play the trump card the die-hard opponents are begging for: cutting off funding for the war.

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