So tell me what went right for you guys.
There’s no doubt the progressive agenda was moved forward in a big way by John Edwards and the campaign. I worry about what would have happened had he not been in. The
Listen to both of them now. Talking about how we have to take on entrenched interests and corporate greed. Even the rhetoric has been affected. I’ve learned a long time ago that often, as disappointing as it is to lose, a losing candidacy can have a much bigger impact on the party, the future of the country, the direction of where things are going. I’d make that case with 2004. Kerry did win the nomination. The longer-lasting changes in terms of the direction of the party, in terms of how campaigns are being waged today, in the strength of the Democratic Party, the grassroots, the ability to raise low-dollar sums--Obama was even [made] possible, the way he raises the money. The campaign that had a bigger impact on all that was Dean, not Kerry. That’s not a hit on the eventual nominee. Often the campaign that stands on principle, makes a bigger case for change within the party, may lose, but it had the bigger impact on the eventual direction of country. It remains to be seen if the Edwards campaign may be able to claim that mantle in 2008.
What went wrong?
In the end, it was just impossible to break through against these two. “Letting history blaze its path,” that line in his [final] speech, that’s really true to how it felt inside. We felt we had better positions, stronger positions, better thought-out positions. We were talking about things no one else was talking about. Ending poverty, to give one example. The press was interested in history. The electorate was interested in history. This isn’t to blame the press. You have two historic candidates, that’s not the press’s fault. Not voters’ fault. That’s the way it was. Increasingly, we were having to be more strident. We had to be more aggressive to become heard. As the cycle moves on, it got to the point where we could have gotten more attention if we set ourselves on fire. But as much as people may think that’s a page in my game plan, none of us wanted to do that. That’s not what Edwards wanted to do. When it got down to it, we could get 300 delegates, play the role of spoiler, or kingmaker at the convention. But that wasn’t the reason he got in the race.
Probably the only shot we had was to outright win
She teared up, she choked up. Whether that had anything to do with it or not, we had no control over it. We had no control over Obama rolling into
Were you surprised that, after the Philly debate, where Edwards really wailed on Hillary, that seemed to be the start of the Obama surge?
It happened every time. Go back and look. We take her on on lobbyist money, the next day’s headlines are “Obama-Hillary clash on campaign finance.” The press just wanted to just see everything through the Hillary-Barack lens. Particularly the
Did Edwards and Obama ganging up on her in the
Nah. There’s a lot of, “Let’s go back and look at that,” everyone remembers it. But the dial test showed that to be disastrous debate for her. The dial test showed us winning. If the dial test could speak, Edwards would be president. We won just about every single debate by that. Also the coverage--it’s, what, 30 seconds, 18 seconds played over and over. One thing we’re seeing is the effect of cable--the same thing over and over again for 48 hours.
What about kind of going after Hillary after she teared up?
I was there. He in my view in no way shape or form [intended to pile on]. He said it, meant it in the context [of the question that was asked]. We talked, like, minutes before that. He was like, “I don’t want to talk about this at all.” It was not even “I don’t even want to comment about it.” One of them asked him something, “Don’t you think a commander in chief, yada yada, a commander in chief needs to be strong.” He wasn’t baited into it, but [the question kind of led him there].
[Unprompted, Trippi pivots to the Democrats’ debate in
One of the reasons Obama has to be worried about the
All the way to
On Hispanics, I didn’t know how he was going to undo what had been baked in cake in
He’s got a good set of states coming up. February 9,
On the other hand, a lot of people watched that debate and said, “Well, what are they talking about saying he doesn’t have enough experience? He looks pretty good to me.” He sits there for two hours, debates her on
He won and scored points on the issues that he needed to. The big doubt about him--he answered it. That debate helped him big time. The big doubt about her--that she’s status quo--I think he could have pulled off both things, and proved that. He disproved “I’m not ready” by basically standing with her for a few hours and not blowing it. I’m not being crass. He didn’t have any gaffes. He did really well. That helps him. Only thing is, it’s clear that she helped herself by moving so aggressively to define the race as a change candidate. She can let him quietly keep answering the experience question, and she’ll beat him. I’m not sure he can let her move to the change part and beat her.
You didn’t get any
What about that debate in
I would say a couple things here. When you look at the actual result, it sure as hell didn’t do Obama any damage. Remember in
There are a lot of debates where it works out that you get the questions you wanted to get asked. For some reason, when he got asked a question it was, “If this comes up, make sure you say this about Obama. When this comes up, say this about her.” The way the moderators asked the question, it loaded up on Obama.
The other thing is that, in my own view, that was the first week where we had really thought long and hard about getting out of the race. We didn’t talk about it between
He went into that debate believing he was going to get out of the race. He didn’t pull punches. He stood there, talked about the things he believed in. He didn’t roll over for Barack, for her. Damn it,
It was the tonic he needed to wake up the next morning and say, “Screw you, I’m not getting out of here.” Even folks in the campaign, some of the people said, “We don’t want you to get hurt by getting destroyed here.” There were people saying that. It was pretty unanimous. It wasn’t unanimous that he would get out, but no one was saying you shouldn’t think about getting out. We didn’t want to get four or five points in
Is there any way this guy could endorse Hillary after being so tough on her between August and January?
I don’t know. I know--I really think he respects her. There are different things about each of them. I think that--I certainly don’t see him endorsing either one of them in the near term. I think, obviously, each of them would love [to have it]. They would work it. But I don’t see him doing it in the near term. I’m not sure. In the long term, who knows? This thing could break one way or the other relatively quickly. I couldn’t predict that.
Noam Schieber is a senior editor at The New Republic.