Election '08: Edwards Raises the Protectionist Banner

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Don't think it's too early to ponder 2008 presidential politics. Yes, yes, we are still digesting the impact of the 2006 midterms. But potential candidates are already forming exploratory committees and hiring top talent in Washington and in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Take well-groomed 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards, widely assumed to be an almost sure-go for 2008. Just today, he announced that former Michigan Rep. David Bonior has joined his "One America" PAC as senior adviser for policy and politics–and de facto campaign manager should Edwards officially join the hunt.

Upon hearing that tidbit, I immediately recalled a conversation I just had with John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff from 1998 until the end of his second term. (Podesta currently heads the Center for American Progress, a "progressive" think tank in Washington.) Given the growing the skepticism of free trade within his own party–last month House Democrats voted 94-90 against approving normal trade relations with Vietnam–he wondered aloud if there would be any "full-throated Sherrod Brown types" running for the Democratic nomination. Brown, the newly elected U.S. senator from Ohio, is a vocal free-trade opponent. As Podesta sees it, the "the big question is where Edwards comes out." Edwards ran a populist campaign during the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, talking about how there were "two Americas"–though Edwards didn't get many votes from either.

This is where Bonior comes in. Before retiring from the House in 2002 and unsuccessfully running for governor of the Wolverine State, Bonior was one of the most protectionist members of Congress, not too surprising for a Michigan Democrat, of course. While in Congress, Bonior voted for withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, voted against presidential fast-track trade authority as well as giving China most-favored-nation trading status. His inclusion on Team Edwards leaves little doubt that the former trial lawyer will be the Sherrod Brown or Patrick Buchanan of the Dem primaries, bashing free trade and China all around the country.