Going Public, With No Regrets
Elizabeth Edwards isn't afraid to speak her mind. Not everyone's comfortable with it
She's says she not surprised that she's been criticized for not staying home with Emma Claire, 9, and Jack, 7. As a woman, she says, she's been scrutinized since she started practicing law in 1977 and had her first child two years later. She stopped practicing after Wade's death.
But how much can a charismatic running mate like Elizabeth Edwards do for her husband, who, campaigning as a populist, has taken shots for $400 haircuts and the family's new $6 million house? Andrew Taylor, a North Carolina State University political scientist, says Elizabeth can give Edwards cover with liberals on cultural issues including gay marriage, which she supports and he doesn't, and generate sympathy among voters because of her illness. "If she was just a wallflower ... that would be egregious," Taylor says. "But she's intelligent and accomplished and an attribute for the campaign." Says Susan Estrich, who managed Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential run: "If a marital partner has any impact, it's because of what it says about the candidate, not who we want in the White House."
Edwards campaign strategist Joe Trippi says Elizabeth Edwards disdains talking points, weighs in on decisions, and makes some of her own, such as calling in to confront Coulter on live television about attacks on her husband. Trippi says he knew she planned to call but not what she intended to say. "I was sitting on the edge of my seat just like the rest of America," he says. Skeptics find that scenario implausible. The "suggestion that this wasn't greenlighted or calculated by the campaign is laughable," Jonah Goldberg wrote in the National Review online. The campaign turned the contretemps into a fundraising boon. The campaign was also criticized earlier this year for soliciting contributions from visitors to the Edwards website, who were asked to E-mail good wishes to the couple after Elizabeth's cancer had returned.
Back in Iowa, Edwards has just about wrapped up a meeting with volunteers in Indianola. A half-dozen women lined up to have her sign her 2006 book, Saving Graces, and she talked about the year to come, a year filled with home-schooling the children on the campaign trail, uncertainty about her husband's prospects, and the unpredictability of her health. Elizabeth maintains it will be "a great year for our family." It's the kind of thing a brave woman would say.
A more in-depth interview with Elizabeth Edwards is at www.usnews.com/news/