In his quest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards has failed to win a single primary or caucus. But exit polls in several states show he is winning a majority of the angry dandy vote.
In Nevada, where Edwards finished a distant fourth this past weekend, garnering only 4 percent of the vote, he swept upper middle-class male boutique clerks, personal assistants, celebrity publicists, hairdressers and Cher fans.
"John Edwards has finally found his base," said UNLV political scientist Gale Cerf. "If only America were filled with pampered white males with impeccable fashion sense and a burning resentment of wealthy industrialists, he'd have it made."
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., won 84 percent of the black vote in Nevada, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., won about half the female vote in New Hampshire and more than half of it in Nevada. Edwards, however, has failed to rally white males, with most of them splitting between Obama and Clinton. Unable to capitalize on sex or race in a contest now obviously divided by both, Edwards has struggled to find a base of support -- until the Nevada exit polls confirmed what some in his campaign had long suspected: He's a hit with angry, effete men.
"John's dual message of seething rage at the corporate tycoons who secretly run this nation and immaculate grooming has won him an avid and smashingly dressed following," said campaign manager David Bonior. "Obviously, we are trying to reach as many of them as we can in South Carolina. We currently are attempting to merge the mailing lists of The Nation and the Brooks Brothers catalogue, and we've got volunteers standing by ready to race over and invite anyone who shows up on both lists to discuss John's campaign over coffee at Starbucks."
Brett Childers, a 48-year-old executive at the BMW plant outside Spartanburg, S.C., said he's been an Edwards fan since he first saw the former North Carolina senator's photo featured in a sample book of men's hair styles at his local salon. He voted for Edwards in 2004 and plans to do so again this year.
"I think it's really important to tell the special interests that pull the strings in Washington that we're not going to let them have their way with us anymore," Childers said. "John Edwards is the only candidate in either party who's willing to stand up to the power elite that really runs this country, run his fingers through his silken auburn locks, gaze at them disarmingly for a moment, then pout at them in a very meaningful way."
In Charleston, S.C., a small group of white men in Banana Republic and J. Crew clothes planted Edwards signs in a low-income, racially mixed neighborhood.
"We would normally never come here," Jonathan Winslow, 28, of Charleston, said. "There's not even a Starbucks in this neighborhood, if you can believe it. But these are the people who really ought to be voting for John Edwards and we're here to see that they get that message. And if they happen to see that we're all color coordinated, then that might impress them even more. I think the fact that we chose cranberry really makes us stand out. You don't see a lot of cranberry on this side of town, I can tell you that right now."
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