Robert Novak

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- From the moment Democratic presidential candidates arrived in New Hampshire from Iowa last Tuesday, an unanswered question has been whether the magic found by Sen. John Edwards in Midwestern prairies could be transported across the country. The process has been slow and uncertain, but the answer still could be "yes."

Sen. John Kerry, the decisive Iowa winner, appears headed for another clear victory Tuesday in New Hampshire. Polling indicates former front-runner Howard Dean?s free fall has been arrested, perhaps enough to finish second. Wesley Clark has lost momentum, particularly after a disastrous performance in Thursday night?s final debate. Sen. Joe Lieberman may get into double digits. That leaves Edwards, starting the week in single digits and no better than fourth here, but moving up a little.

Pollster Frank Luntz believes Edwards has "perfect pitch" with today?s Democrat, bashing George W. Bush and painting a grim picture of life in America while holding out hope. Luntz?s focus groups reflect switching from Dean to Edwards. In bygone days when weeks separated voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, Edwards would have had a chance to actually win here. With only a seven-day interim now, and Edwards dividing his time campaigning for the Feb. 3 primary in South Carolina, he still hopes for a second-place finish enabling him to challenge Kerry?s nomination in coming primaries.

Kerry and Edwards disagree on nothing. Indeed, all the leading candidates except Lieberman agree on policy and even what policies they talk about. For prudential reasons, gun control goes unmentioned and abortion is seldom mentioned. The theme is redistribution of wealth in America, and multi-millionaire trial lawyer Edwards propounds it most effectively with his concept of "two Americas."

Edwards talks about two school systems, two tax systems, two economies and two governments -- historic Democratic populism. At the state party dinner in Nashua Saturday night where candidates were restricted to seven minutes each, Edwards barely mentioned Iraq. His "perfect pitch" is telling Democrats how terrible life in America is but promising "the change we all want. Yes, we will! We can do it!"

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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