Kerry Quietly Regaining Influence in Party, Advising Two out of Three Frontrunners.

The Politico reports that John Kerry’s time is coming — again. No, they aren’t predicting he’ll be nominated to run for president again, but they do note that, in contrast to Al Gore in the first couple of years after losing, Kerry remains influential in his party:

For four years after winning the race but losing the presidency, Gore could do nothing right. He ignored his loyalists, got bloated and sweaty, embraced the unruly anti-war left and threw his support behind their 2004 presidential candidate, who then imploded spectacularly.

Kerry’s vindication is coming quicker, if more quietly. His party already has embraced his position on Iraq. His argument that no military solution exists for the situation there is now the de facto Democratic stance. In June 2006, when Kerry helped force a vote on a phased U.S. troop withdrawal, his colleagues gave him a serious razzing and only 13 votes. Just over one year later, this past July, the same measure got 52.

There is interest in who Kerry will ultimately support as he returns the phone calls of two out of three of the top contenders, and it is well known whose calls he has no interest in taking:

But the lack of an audible clamor for an endorsement by Kerry is more than a bit deceiving, as is the perception that he’s still wandering around in that wilderness to which all losing Democratic nominees are cast. The two top candidates who aren’t married to Elizabeth Edwards are quietly seeking his advice and support. An associate suggests that Kerry may hold off on endorsing until closer to the primaries, but when he does make his choice, that candidate will get access to a 3-million-name e-mail list, possibly the largest in the party.

When a Defense Department official accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of “reinforcing enemy propaganda” after she asked the Pentagon to start preparing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the Kerry associate says it was the Clinton team’s idea to have Kerry out front denouncing that accusation.

It is doubtful that Kerry will ever get a chance to run for president again, but he is well positioned to follow the path of another Senator from Massachusetts whose earlier presidential ambitions were shot down. On the other hand,there was a time when nobody thought we have Dick Nixon to kick around any more after he lost to John Kennedy in 1960 and subsequently lost in a bid to become governor of California.

David Yepsen Argues Edwards Still Has a Chance

David Yepsen notes many believe that the Edwards campaign is washed up but does provide an argument for why he could still win:

He spends more time in Iowa than his rivals. (His wife jokes that if someone asked the couple for directions in Iowa, they could provide them.)

While Obama and Clinton have only recently discovered the fact that 49 percent of Iowa’s Democratic caucus-goers live in rural and small-town Iowa, Edwards has been mining those tiny lodes for years.

For example, his schedule for Wednesday called for him to spend the day in far-northwest Iowa, where Democrats are ordinarily found only on endangered-species lists. (I know Democrats running for governor who don’t make it to Rock Rapids.) Yet Edwards was to campaign there, and end his day on a hog farm near Cylinder, population 110.

While he didn’t get a rock star’s crowd in Waukee this week, he did get 257 local Democrats to show up: Retirees. Farmers. Teachers. Working folks. A few suburbanites In short, he attracted a crowd that looked exactly like the types of people who actually show up at a Democratic caucus in January. (Or December.)

I have no doubt that Edwards can still win in Iowa. His problem is that a win in Iowa would not be very impressive in light of how much time he spends there, and Edwards’ positions, which often appear to have been written specifically for the Iowa caucus, will not be received as well elsewhere, especially in the Northeast. One major argument against Edwards’ prospects is contained in a paragraph which begins by repeating the Edwards campaigns claims of electability but proceeds to say:

He doesn’t have the polarizing negatives Clinton has and is a more seasoned candidate than Obama, though some of his positions smack of class war.

Resorting to such class warfare might help in Iowa, but as I noted yesterday he will repel the types of voters who gave the Democrats their majority in 2006. His decision to accept matching funds would also place him at a severe disadvantage running against a Republican who wasn’t subject to spending limits. Yepsen is right that Edwards could still win in Iowa, but his chances of winning the nomination are significantly lower and his chances of winning a general election campaign are very remote.

Richardson Angers Environmentalists and Voters in Great Lakes States

Bill Richardson showed lots of promise earlier in the campaign but a series of gaffes has prevented his campaign from gaining any traction. This week Richardson angered voters in the great lakes region by suggesting that the water be diverted to the southwest:

Michigan environmental activists Thursday accused New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson of suggesting that northern states — including the Great Lakes region — share water with the Sun Belt.

“Richardson’s assault is the latest in a lengthy list of schemes to siphon Great Lakes water to other areas of the nation and the world,” said five groups, including the Michigan Environmental Council and the state chapter of the Sierra Club, in a written statement.

A spokesman for Richardson, a Democratic presidential hopeful, said if elected he would “embrace a national water policy that will specifically help protect the authority of states and the rights of local communities throughout the country.”

Nevada’s Jan. 9 presidential caucus is second in the nation, and Richardson is making the state a top target. An eight-year drought is causing water shortages there and in the six other states that tap the Colorado River.

In an Oct. 4 story, the Las Vegas Sun quoted Richardson as saying that as president he would encourage northern states with plenty of water to help those with shortages in the Southwest.

“I want a national water policy,” he said. “We need a dialogue between states to deal with issues like water conservation, water reuse technology, water delivery and water production.

States like Wisconsin are awash in water.”

He did not refer specifically to the Great Lakes. But his remark about Wisconsin — one of the eight Great Lakes states — touched a nerve in neighboring Michigan.

Water levels have fallen across the upper Great Lakes since the late 1990s. Lake Superior’s level in September was the lowest on record for that month.

“Governor Richardson apparently understands neither the dynamics of a Great Lakes ecosystem that renews its water at a rate of only 1 percent each year, nor the globally significant resource that the Great Lakes represent,” said David Holtz, spokesman for Clean Water Action.

Environmentalists said Richardson’s comments underscored the need for the Great Lakes states to ratify a pending compact that would outlaw most diversions of water from the region.

Richardson subsequently backed down on this idea but has probably destroyed any remote chances he might have had to win in the Great Lakes states.

Quote of the Day

Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare mission accomplished a little too soon,” Mr. Obama said, the crowd laughing and applauding. “So we’re – we’ve got a long way to go before the first vote is cast, but we do this every year, every election. Four years ago, you know, President Howard Dean was coronated, and that didn’t work out. And so really until those folks start going into the polling place, these races end up being very fluid.”

Barack Obama on The Tonight Show after Jay Leno asked him if he was discouraged because “Hillary appears to be a shoo-in.”