As Obama resists the Tom Cruise temptation to leap out of Oprah's stuffed chair in excitement over Iowa poll numbers that show him with a slight lead, and establishment darling Clinton searches for a way to generate vitality beyond the marble pillars of officialdom, former Sen. John Edwards remains a statistically relevant presence, at least in Iowa.
"Edwards is not done," insisted Peter Woolley, executive director of Fairleigh Dickinson's PublicMind poll. "The fat lady hasn't sung. He's still running third. If one month before the Iowa caucus, it's as close as it is, you're doing very well. But the bad sign about Edwards is his level of support has been pretty static. He's not moving the needle."
In the Northeast, Edwards' presidential campaign ravenously pursues good news, and finds little. The fact that the one-term senator and former vice-presidential nominee emerged the winner at an informal caucus in Roselle Park on Friday belies the fact that Clinton's supporters bolstered Edwards rather than get seared by the victory chants of their prime tormentor, Team Obama, which placed second.
Local polls show the North Carolina millionaire lawyer hardly on the radar in New Jersey: at 7% behind 22% for Obama and 52% for Clinton in an October Strategic vision poll.
But Senate President (and former Governor) Richard Codey, who spoke on his candidate's behalf in Roselle Park, believes Edwards remains the best general election prospect.
"It is all about November, and who's got the best chance of winning," said Codey, who sat down with Edwards last winter in the lead-up to giving him his support. "Edwards has the ability to win southern states, which Clinton is going to have a hard time doing. Obama is too young and unproven to win an election nationwide."
While Codey concedes that Obama's numbers in Iowa right now show that "he's right there," he believes Clinton hasn't yet peaked, and has too large a core of voters to be discounted in Iowa or New Hampshire.
Given the country, however, "I don't think she's going to win the general," Codey said. "In a terrorist attack, who would you feel more safe with: Hillary or Giuliani – assuming he's not in the Hamptons?"
In addition to Codey, among New Jersey's elected officials, Edwards has incoming Sen. Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, and Sen. Joseph Vitale in his corner. Although he doesn't enjoy the same kind of county by county grassroots network that Obama volunteers have built, and doesn't employ any paid staff in Jersey (Obama's New Jersey campaign has six paid staff members), Edwards does have seasoned community organizers on the ground here.
"If he wins in Iowa, he'll get enough money to compete in New Hampshire and beyond," said campaign volunteer and former Mayor of Neptune Mike Beson, a Dean campaign veteran from 2004. "We plan to export volunteers to work on weekends in New Hampshire; we've had volunteers on the streets, volunteers working to get delegates on the ballot. It's all grassroots-driven."
The New Jersey deadline to get presidential candidates on the ballot is Monday, December 10th.
"What we've been doing mostly is getting ballot petitions prepared in time for tomorrow's deadline," Warren County Democratic Chairman Mike Sedita and another veteran of the Dean campaign, told PolitickerNj.com. Sedita will serve as an Edwards delegate.
Edwards may engender greater support here beyond the core of Codey and his cadre of progressive volunteers, but in order to do that, acknowledged Sedita, "He has to do well in Iowa."