Byron York puzzles over the latest national poll numbers, which show Edwards wiping the floor with every Republican comer, while both Obama and Hillary run closer to their possible GOP foes. My impression is that this has been the case for a while, and I'd posit three possible (and by no means mutually-exclusive) explanations. First of all, most voters' image of Edwards was formed in the '04 race, when he ran as a more centrist candidate than he's become this time around; thus despite having move steadily leftward over the last three years, he's still perceived as the least liberal of the Democratic front-runners by the general public. (Democratic primary voters, who are presumably paying closer attention, have a more accurate assessment.) Second, he's a Southern white male, and even if the percentage of swing voters who would rule out voting for a woman or a black man is relatively small (and it might be large-ish), his race and sex alone would still presumably give him a slight boost. Third, he's received considerably less press attention than Hillary and Obama over the last six months, and in a year when a generic Democrat would presumably trounce a generic Republican, he's presumably still a more "generic" figure than either of his better-publicized opponents, and thus a better vessel for undecided voters to pour their anti-GOP animus into.
The other possibility, of course, is that most people just really like the guy, but as a confirmed Edwards-hater I'm loathe to even consider it.
Photo by Flickr user alexdecarvalho used under a Creative Commons license.
Ross Douthat is a former contributing editor at The Atlantic.