Friday, May 18, 2007

"Edwards Slow in Shaping Calif. Campaign"

John Edwards says California will play ``a huge role'' in determining the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, yet he's running a shoestring campaign here compared with his top rivals.
New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has appointed a campaign manager, political director and field organizer in the nation's largest state, and she has a Los Angeles office devoted to fundraising.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is leasing an office for a four-person fundraising team in Los Angeles, and he's hired a national consulting firm from Pasadena.

Even New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who will officially announce his candidacy in Los Angeles on Monday, has a small paid staff in the state.

By contrast, Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice presidential candidate, has no campaign office or paid political staff in the state, though two fundraising firms are on his payroll.

It's still relatively early in the race, but for Edwards the situation suggests a tricky political calculus: win or at least make strong showings in earlier primary and caucus states - notably Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - then use that momentum to create a surge of donations to mount an airwaves campaign in California.

The first presidential caucus state is Iowa, and Edwards has a robust campaign in the state. He finished second there when he was a presidential candidate in 2004 and leads in polls this year.

However, Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who's worked on presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton, Dick Gephardt and Edward Kennedy, said if Edwards stumbles in Iowa ``he won't have a California campaign.''

Carrick said that even while concentrating on the earlier states Edwards must establish a campaign in California if he is to take advantage of early momentum.

Carrick recalled that in 1988 Gephardt, the former Missouri senator, won Iowa and finished second in the New Hampshire primary, but he didn't have the organization in other states to be competitive and fell out of the race.

California assumed new prominence in the presidential election this year when state lawmakers moved up its primary by four months, to Feb. 5. The state, long a font of political dollars, has seen a succession of candidates making trips here.

Edwards' campaign says the candidate's most important investment in California is his time. He has spent all or part of 13 days in the state this year, more than other leading Democrats.

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