John Edwards: I can beat a Republican

Race for the White House

John Edwards' presidential campaign Friday played what it considers a trump card: the belief that he's more electable than any other Democrat.

In a conference call organized by the campaign, 10 party leaders from across the country said Edwards has the best chance not only of beating a Republican but of ensuring the election of other Democrats.

Not surprisingly, other campaigns disagreed.

"Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who wins the general election," said Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's national campaign chairman.

Edwards, who trails Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in fundraising and in most polls, touts his electability on the campaign trail. As a Southerner and a populist, he says, he has the best chance to pick up so-called red states that tend to vote Republican in presidential races.

While recent Democratic nominees wrote off such states, Edwards promises a "50-state campaign."

His campaign points to surveys that show him leading in hypothetical match-ups against potential Republican nominees. A memo from the campaign's pollster, Harrison Hickman, analyzed national poll findings and said, "Edwards is the candidate who can expand the Democratic map, putting states into play that neither Clinton nor Obama can."

But most of those same polls also show Clinton and Obama beating Republicans.

And a report published this month on a new Washington Post/ABC News poll concluded that "more Americans have turned away from (Edwards) as a general-election option." The poll found that 43 percent said they definitely would not vote for him, compared with 35 percent in April.

Nearly half of all Southern voters ruled out the three leading Democrats by almost identical percentages.

For the 10 party officials put forth by the Edwards' campaign Friday, there's no doubt about who the strongest candidate would be.

Oregon Senate President Pro Tem Margaret Carter said Edwards is "talking about the things that Americans want to hear."

"For the Democratic Party to nominate a candidate who will not win the general election," she said, "is obscene as far as I'm concerned."

Connie Johnson, minority whip of the Missouri House of Representatives, said any other candidate atop the ticket would cost Democratic seats in her state.

"If Hillary comes to a state like Missouri, we can write it off," she said.

Asked to respond, McAuliffe of Clinton's campaign said, "I'm not going to play their game of negative politics. Some campaigns are getting nervous."

Clinton's S.C. campaign on Friday announced the endorsements of more elected officials.

"They will tell you she's got the best chance of winning the general election and helping them in the down-ballot election," McAuliffe said.

Obama S.C. spokesman Kevin Griffis suggested the Illinois senator can win, too.

"Barack Obama has a history of bringing people together," he said, "people of all political stripes."