It's Edwards!

Posted: Jul 07, 2004 12:00 AM

 With four months to go before the presidential elections, no sensible person should make even an educated guess of the winner. We don't know much more today than we did a year and a half ago. Back then it was pretty obvious that George Bush was likely to get re-elected if the public judged his handling of Iraq and the war on terror favorably.

  If the public judged him poorly on that supreme topic, the Democratic Party nominee was likely to win -- unless they nominated a total loser. They avoided that latter contingency at the last moment -- by rejecting Howard Dean -- and so are prepared to harvest most of the anti-Bush votes that will be available.

 While there are several obvious minor plusses and minuses that attach to the Edwards selection, Mr. Kerry's chances would be about the same if he had chosen almost any of the top dozen mentioned vice-presidential names. We are already 24 hours into a frantic over-assessment of what the Edwards selection means. Republican-leaning commentators are painting in bold hues Mr. Edward's minor shortcomings, while those who lean Democratic are falling over their adjectives to describe Mr. Edwards' selection as a stroke of inspiration on the part of Mr. Kerry. It is all too tedious to listen to.

 The political class' Edwards huffing is like a summer heat rash -- it is mildly irritating but should subside in about a week. Wear loosely fitting clothes, keep out of the heat, and ease your way through an adequate provision of gin, tonic, limes and bitters. Tropical drinks served with little umbrellas are acceptable substitutes. Now would be an excellent time to catch up on your genuine summer fiction reading (in other words, avoid Edwards media commentary for a week, which is not quite fiction, nor quite non-fiction. It is not so much fiction as it is faction).

 By about July 13, Mr. Edwards will return, with Mr. Kerry, back into obscurity until July 28, when he will re-appear on the evening news to deliver a seemingly sincere, empathetic and vigorous acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. At that point, shrewd commentators will judge the speech to have hit just the right mark: hitting Bush and Cheney firmly, but not overshadowing Mr. Kerry's expected drone on the 29th.

 At that point there will be another very exciting week where Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards will travel around the country -- pretending to really get along with each other's wives. Inevitably we will be obliged to be on a first-name basis with the wives. This always seems a little sexist to me -- but the liberal media always insist on trying to induce such strained intimacy with nominees' wives.

 Theresa and Elizabeth will explain to Ms. Couric of NBC News how much they have in common: Elizabeth growing up poor in North Carolina and meeting her first and only husband in law school; Theresa growing up rich in the colonial charms of rural East Africa and meeting her current husband in the aftermath of a famous funeral.

 When the cameras turn off, the two wives will go to their respective corners and get sincere performance critiques from their anxious husbands. After about a week of such measured patter -- none of which will have the slightest effect on the election -- we can all return to our televisions sets to watch the Olympics on August 19. The main interest at the Olympics will be to see if the terrorists attack in Athens, or if our athletes are merely verbally abused by the international flotsam and Euro trash who attend such affairs.

 Then it will be time to see the Republican Convention starting on August 29. Commentary will not be so generous to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney as it was to the Democrats. Excessive camera time will be expended watching Bush-hating left-wing freaks and other establishment dignitaries say rude things about our president and vice president. We will hear and see less of the Republican wives than we did of Elizabeth and Theresa. None of this will matter either. Then the World Series will be on.

 Finally, the public will pay attention to the campaign. With a short month left, the undecided likely voters, the 5-10 percent of the electorate, will look up and see who they want to vote for. If Iraq looks to be going to hell in a handbasket, they will vote for the other guy. If things seem OK in Iraq, they'll vote for the guy currently in the White House. Thus is history made. And nobody has come up with a better way yet.