Christensen: You won't find John Edwards at the DNC

rchristensen@newsobserver.comSeptember 4, 2012 

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Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, and his running mate Senator John Edwards work the crowd following a rally at N.C. State University on Saturday afternoon July 10, 2004. More than 25,000 people attended the rally in Raleigh.

ROBERT WILLETT - 2004 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

— This could have been John Edwards’ convention. Don’t laugh.

The switch of 135,000 votes in Ohio in 2004, and the country would be coming to the end of the second term of the Kerry-Edwards administration.

Vice President Edwards – too busy attending funerals of foreign leaders to be fooling around with a New York party girl – is about to step out from President John Kerry’s shadow and accept his party’s nomination Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.

Charlotte is the perfect venue – straddling the state where he was born and the state where he lived most of his life and made his political career.

“There are two Americas …,” says Edwards.

What we have instead are riffs from the likes of late night comedians like Jay Leno, who said the reason Democrats did not invite Edwards to the Democratic convention was that he would scare away the women’s vote, although Edwards promised he would “help deliver ‘the other woman vote.’ ”

Edwards is the name that must not be mentioned at the Democratic convention in Charlotte. Canoodling with a girlfriend while your wife is battling breast cancer, covering up the child of the affair, and being indicted for illegally using campaign funds to move your girlfriend and baby around the country are not included in any public relations manual of which I am aware.

Edwards in May was found not guilty of one of the charges, and the rest were dismissed when the jury could not reach a decision.

There was a lot of speculation that this might put a damper on the Democratic convention. But don’t expect President Barack Obama to make a side trip to Chapel Hill to shoot hoops with Edwards as he did in 2008 when he was seeking his endorsement.

The view from the North Carolina delegation is that Edwards is yesterday’s news, even though four years ago many of them campaigned for Edwards.

Mark Kleinschmidt, the mayor of Chapel Hill, Edwards’ hometown, said he has heard no Edwards talk at the convention.

Like many North Carolina Democratic activists, Kleinschmidt volunteered in Edwards’ presidential campaigns.

“I don’t feel any active dislike for Senator Edwards,” Kleinschmidt said. “This convention is very focused on re-electing President Obama.”

He said many of Edwards’ former supporters in Chapel Hill are inclined to give Edwards time and space to recover from the trial and to decide what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

Brad Thompson, a former Raleigh councilman who once worked as Edwards’ state director, also said the delegation was giving little thought to Edwards.

“Every person has to live with their own decisions,” Thompson said of Edwards.

We will never know how close Edwards was to making this convention his own.

During the 2004 election, Republican President George Bush won a close election with 286 electoral votes to 251 electoral votes for Kerry.

The race was so close that it came down to Ohio. When Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell announced that it was statistically impossible for the Democrats to make up the margin in Ohio through provisional ballots – estimated at 135,000 – Edwards argued that Kerry should contest Ohio. But Kerry conceded the race. There would be no repeat of the lengthy court battles of four years earlier in Florida.

All of this, of course, is conjecture.

This is a nation of second chances, and Wednesday night, President Bill Clinton, who was caught up in his own Oval Office sex scandal, will be the major speaker at the Democratic convention.

But observers say it’s hard to see a political comeback for Edwards, who has largely disappeared from public view since the charges were dismissed against him in May.

“He is a political talent squandered,” said Steven Greene, a political scientist at N.C. State University in Raleigh. “I’ve not heard a single person say it’s too bad that John Edwards is still not around.”

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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