If I’m Either of The Johns or Fred…

BY: MICHAEL M. SHAPIRO

If I’m John Edwards or John McCain or Fred Thompson, I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’m slightly behind the front runners in my Party and the folks who are ahead of me are engaging in an all-out negative assault against each other. That’s where John Edwards and John McCain find themselves in both Iowa and New Hampshire and where Fred Thompson finds himself in South Carolina, the first few key presidential primary states. If I’m either of the Johns or Fred, I run a positive, issue-based campaign through the South Carolina Primary and let the front runners continue to attack each other between now and then.

On the Democratic side, the seemingly unstoppable Hillary Clinton has run into a major problem: the two most appealing factors driving voters to her, her inevitability as the nominee and her ability to beat the Republican nominee, have been eliminated. She is no longer in the lead in Iowa with her likeability registering only in the low 20’s while in head-to-head matchups with possible Republican opponents, she is losing against nearly every choice. Meanwhile, Barack Obama has become the front runner in Iowa and is closing in fast on Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire. During the past few weeks, these two candidates, who once publicly abhorred negative campaigning, are trading negative barbs on a daily basis. If John Edwards, currently running a close third in both Iowa and New Hampshire, runs a positive campaign from here on out, he will pick up a few points from weak Clinton supporters and a few points from weak Obama supporters. He can then catapult into the lead in both states, leaving Obama in second, and Clinton finishing third in both contests. Then the candidates head south where Clinton’s support is weaker and where both Edwards and Obama can flourish. The end result: the campaign becomes a contest between Obama and Edwards but leaving Clinton as a potential kingmaker (and possible VP or Secretary of State), since whoever she endorses at that point would likely win the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, both Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have run into problems: their controversial pasts (and presents) have come back to haunt them. Religious conservatives have failed to take kindly to either candidate and instead have gravitated to Mike Huckabee who has surged to first place in Iowa and is on Romney’s heels in New Hampshire. If Huckabee finishes first in Iowa, Romney is in serious trouble and his supporters may well go to John McCain when New Hampshire rolls around. With the recent endorsement of McCain by the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire could become the springboard McCain needs to capture the nomination should he win convincingly in New Hampshire. If Huckabee fails to get traction in New Hampshire and New Hampshire becomes a muddle with no clear winner, the next stop is South Carolina where Fred Thompson can pick up the pieces and become the Party’s standard bearer. Thompson is a conservative and religious enough to attract evangelical support, and would be a good general election candidate. Despite his current standing in the polls and in media coverage, it would be a mistake to count Thompson out. Likewise, those who have written McCain’s obituary may rue the day they did.

The key to the success of Edwards, McCain or Thompson is to stay above the fray in the closing weeks and let the front runners bloody themselves, while staying just close enough to be seen as a viable alternative. Should that occur, Edwards on the Democratic side and McCain or Thompson on the Republican side could very well wind up their Party’s respective nominees.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of ShapTalk.com, is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Editor of The Alternative Press, http://www.thealternativepress.com Contact Mike at mike@shaptalk.com

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