Edwards plans Texas campaign
"If your husband wins the nomination, will -- "
"The answer is 'Yes,'" shot back Elizabeth Edwards.
The rest of the question, as the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards anticipated, was "will he campaign in Texas in the general election?"
Elizabeth Edwards's "yes" answer came at a recent Austin press conference at Texas Democratic Party headquarters, announcing her husband's 38 percent online poll lead over Barack Obama (21) and Hillary Clinton (20) for the Democratic nomination.
(See the complete polls results below - or at txdemocrats.org.)
Her quick answer demonstrated she knows Texas Democrats care about the presidential general election campaign in Texas - a lot.
They have grown very weary of Democratic presidential candidates mining the state for campaign dollars, courting Democrats for their delegate votes for the nomination, and then spending the dollars elsewhere. The Democratic presidential tickets have tended to visit Texas between the nominating convention and the general election about as often as Timbuktu.
For the past quarter century, ever since the Bush Dynasty began, Democratic presidential candidates have chosen to spend their campaign dollars in other states, where they think they have a fighting chance for electoral votes.
They have written off Texas' electoral votes - second largest among the states - because the state hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter's first election in 1976.
The accompanying result has been a steady decline in the strength of the Texas Democratic Party. It last won a statewide election in 1994, and now both the Texas Senate and, since 2003, the House, are controlled by Republicans.
But, the lingering Iraq War helping drag down President George W. Bush's popularity, and a continuing stream of congressional scandals besmirching the GOP, have given Texas Democrats a boost.
In 2006, they gained back six seats in the Texas House and swept county elections in Dallas and Hays Counties. That, plus the takeover nationally of the U.S. House and Senate, has made them cautiously optimistic. Hence it comes as good news that Edwards wouldn't ignore Texas.
"We have a saying in our family - that you're never going to win a football game you don't play in," Elizabeth Edwards said.
Not only does her husband have a 50-state strategy, she said, but she predicted that fear he could do well in presumed "red" (Republican) states in the South may have been a reason Republicans in the Texas Senate blocked moving Texas' March 4 primary election a month earlier, where it might count.
Edwards, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for six years before being picked by John Kerry for the vice-presidential nomination in 2004, "is popular in red states," his wife said. "He can do as well in Texas as he did in North Carolina."
She said his populist message resonates with rank-and-file voters because as the son of a mill worker, and first in his family to attend college, he shares humble beginnings with many other Americans.
"He comes from where they come from," she said. "He understands their lives."
She said a priority for her husband as president would be to raise the minimum wage. By contrast, President Bush had as one of his first priorities to cut taxes for the wealthy.
"Was it ever on his agenda to raise the minimum wage?" she asked rhetorically. "No."
Elizabeth Edwards, as has her husband, got in a gig at Hillary Clinton for accepting contributions from lobbyists, including those representing drug companies.
"John has asked Sen. Clinton not to take these lobbyists' money," she said.
Mrs. Edwards also during her multi-city Texas tour was signing copies of her book, "Amazing Grace," about how people lifted her up after tragedies like the death of her son in 1996, and her more recent battle with breast cancer.
Reach McNeely at dmcneely@austin. rr.com or (512) 323-0248.