I realize that the name of the game now is to elect John Kerry president and as many Congressional Dems as possible (not to mention govs and state reps), but I am curious about what people think Edwards' future is. He ran a campaign that I think left most with a positive impression and the thought "maybe someday, but it's not his turn this time."
I see three scenarios:
1. Kerry wins with Edwards as VP. I think that Kerry/Edwards are renominated in 2008 and Edwards is the prohibitive favorite in 2012. In the last 50 years, only 2 VPs have failed to win their party's nomination the second election after they were elected president (whether or not the ticket was reelected) and each was a special case: Agnew in 1976 (in prison) and Quayle in 1996 (national punch line);
- Kerry wins without Edwards. This is the least helpful scenario for Edwards. It largely depends on who he does select for VP. The next open nomination would be in 2012, and if the Kerry VP is someone who has presidential ambitions, they will be the favorite (see above). The best Edwards could do, as I see it would be to run for governor of NC in 2008 when Gov. Easley is term-limited (I think) to position himself. Even so, there will be many contenders at that point.
- Kerry loses (with or without Edwards on the ticket). In this case, Edwards has a strong claim on the favorite's spot. There is recent historical precedent for the runner-up in one nominating contest to win the next time when the first nominee is defeated. Three examples I can think of of this effect are 1960-64 where Goldwater ran to Nixon's right in '60 and then came back to claim the nomination 4 years later; 1976-80 when Reagan's challenge to Ford came up short but he was back and won it all the next time; and I'll count Gary Hart in 1984-88, who I'll maintain was the favorite until his little Monkey Business episode.
The problem here is that he may have strong competition. Hillary is always mentioned, although I personally think a run is unlikely and that she wants to be the next Teddy Kennedy--be a party leader in the Senate for years and years. The guy I do think we'd see in this scenario, however, is Al Gore. He would be using the Nixon scenario: as sitting VP, lose narrowly (and many would say unfairly) an election many would say you should have won going away; go into the political wilderness for eight years, watching your party lose again with someone else; and then come back to win the nomination.