Report from Washington II: Chet Edwards for Vice-President?
Mon July 21, 2008 7:53 am

It may seem far-fetched back home, but here in Washington there is a good case to be made for Edwards. Basically, it’s this: He is a “strong national defense” Democrat. Edwards became chairman of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee in 2007. He championed an $11.8 billion in veterans’ health care and benefits, which is billed as the largest increase in veterans funding in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, going back 77 years. The American Legion gave him its Distinguished Service Award for 2008; it goes to only one of the 535 members of Congress. These are significant credentials for a party, and a presidential nominee, that are vulnerable on the issue of national security and support for the military.

Edwards’ name was entered in the vice-presidential sweepstakes by Nancy Pelosi. They got to know each other when they had adjacent offices some years ago. Pelosi is a strong supporter of veterans’ issues, which are popular with groups of swing voters such as “security moms”; being pro-vet is a way to oppose the war but “revere the warrior.” Many in Washington have dismissed Pelosi’s support for Edwards as simply an effort to keep the House in the game, but there is more to it than that. Edwards has always been good on television, and, while he is not as conservative as the blue dogs, he is far from a liberal. One Edwards support told me that only two Democratic presidents since 1900 have been elected when there was no Southerner on the ticket (including the nominee)–Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. True, but … there have been only five other Democratic presidents since 1900, Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, Carter, and Clinton being the others).

What about the competition? Here circumstances might favor Edwards. Some of the major contenders are from red states: senators Bayh of Indiana and Webb of Virginia, and governor Sebelius of Kansas. Democrats don’t want to risk losing these key positions. On the other hand, the 17th congressional district of Texas is not so crucial to the fortunes of the Democratic party. There are other possibilities out there, such the other Edwards (or is Chet the “other” Edwards?), who is from North Carolina. But John couldn’t deliver his home state in 2000. Nor can Chet deliver Texas. I think, in the end, Obama will look for a bigger name, but Edwards is a serious contender.

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