“What if” discussions are rarely worth the effort. Too many ponderables and too few facts. But they are the mainstay of political water cooler discussions…and what good is a blog if it doesn’t stir the discussion a bit.
Consider the following What If scenario:
Late April — Senator John Edwards resigns from the U.S. Senate and gives his stirring, empassioned version of Bob Dole’s June 1996 speech in which he claims to leave the institution that he loves in order to campaign for the ideas for which he believes. In doing so, he explicitly mentions that part of the reason he is taking this sacrificial step is to insure that Mr. Bowles becomes Senator Bowles and thus, with incumbancy stands a better chance of tilting control of the Senate next year to Democrats. He also makes sure to remind Democrats that he will soon make good on his pledge to do everything possible to elect John Kerry.
Early May — Governor Easley appoints Erskine Bowles to the open Senate seat.
After Memorial Day — Once a week, from June through July, John Edwards speaks at a campaign-style event in a border state or other battleground state that has a high number of voters registered as independents. These events are organized and paid for by his remaining campaign funds and he establishes a FEC- and IRS-compliant organization, as necessary, to funnel additional money into promoting themes consistent if not coordinated with the Kerry campaign.
Outcome — Edwards builds more name i.d. and political capital in critical states. If Kerry and/or Bowles wins in November, Edwards claims part of the credit for his selfless acts (resignation/hearty campaigning in places where a Boston accent is a handicap.) Edwards positions himself as the de facto “best campaigner” on the team for the Democrats which is even more important for Edwards if Kerry loses. Burr faces higher hurdles with fundraising throughout the summer and down the stretch, his campaign begins to falter. Easley is given free media and an opportunity to appear like a leader just before the Republican gubernatorial candidate emerges.
Would this work? Maybe. Is it plausible? I think so. Is it likely? I’d have to argue against it. Is it good for water cooler discussion? I’d say it beats ACC basketball any day of the week.