Weighing the qualifications of Edwards vs Rubio (VP candidates past and future)

Responding to a Political Arena question earlier this week on whether or not John Edwards should go to prison, I wrote

I don’t want to see him go to prison (and there are apparently some significant questions about the legal consequences of the prosecution) but I have always disliked John Edwards.

I did not have a problem with Edwards’ policy positions – I may have disagreed but could respect them. He was talking about the growing inequality in the United States over a decade ago (before it was cool.) Many very smart friends of mine (and substantial numbers of voters) were quite taken with him. I was not.

While Edwards is obviously a man of considerable talent, his experience relative to the attention he received was very thin. Barely into his single term as a Senator he became a vice presidential prospect. With only a single undistinguished term in the Senate he became a presidential contender.

Pundits who pilloried Dan Quayle, swooned for Edwards. But Quayle was a capable and respected Senator. Sure, Quayle could be inarticulate, but remember Edwards’ own deer in headlights moment debating Cheney in 2004? A thinly experienced Democrat is characterized as fresh and new, while a thinly experienced Republican is lampooned as dumb. Granted sometimes these conditions are true – but the instinctive bias bugs me – and Edwards exemplified it.

Edwards (who I sincerely hope finds peace and contentment) turns out to have not been presidential timber at all, and we should be thankful that he has left the national scene. But we should consider carefully, how this bantamweight got as far as he did.

Now, it appears that Sen. Marco Rubio is auditioning for the role. I’ve taken on this question before and found Rubio wanting. So, I don’t think I am a hypocrite on the question of qualifications. However, Rubio has been a professional politician much longer then Edwards. He served in Florida’s legislature for the better part of a decade (including two years as Speaker of Florida’s house.) This is not insubstantial. At the core of being a politician is winning elections. Rubio has won many – Edwards won exactly one (same with Romney – by the way.) True, most of his at-bats have been in the minors – but he’s still had a fair number of trips to the plate. He is not quite the inexperienced, loose cannon like Sarah Palin, and those comparisons seem unfair. Nonetheless, Romney needs serious Washington experience (despite his oft-stated preference for executive experience), and Rubio only has two years in town.

So I feel my conscience clean of hypocrisy – but – I NEVER liked Edwards. He rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning. I gave my rationale – which I believe is legitimate. But I cannot explain my gut reaction except that gut reactions to candidates are important in shaping electoral outcomes.

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