Candidate: John Edwards
Political Background: Former Senator from North Carolina, 2004 Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate
Campaign Website: http://johnedwards.com/
Dem Appeal: Staunch populist liberal, anti-poverty platform, supports universal health care and universal Pre-K education funding, vocal anti-Iraq War position, previous presidential race experience, pro-union, anti-Guantanamo and terrorist detainment/interrogation, pro-gay marriage and civil rights protections and enhancements, anti-lobbyist, pro-globalization, supports massive funding to Africa for various projects, foreign policy - "extend a hand, not a fist", supports national public-smoking ban.
Cross-over Appeal to Republicans: Supports 2nd Amendment to certain extents, promises tax cuts to 95% of Americans.
Cons: Wife seen by voters in both parties as meddling and hiding behind her cancer to avoid being countered in her attacks, anti-poverty populism contradicted by large hedge-fund paycheck for part-time work as well as his South Carolina mansion, "prissy" image does not play well with middle- and working-class voters, slightly flip-flopped on NAFTA - was against it and now wants to renegotiate it, pro-globalized economy contradicted by anti-trade agreement stances.
My Personal Thoughts: John Edwards has spent his entire campaign missing the target he is trying to hit. For example, Edwards makes very loud overtures to the poverty-stricken, working-class, and minority families of America...but seems to get the bulk of his support from guilt-stricken white liberals who are more affluent that the people Edwards is trying to motivate and reach out to.
He wants to cut taxes for 95% of the population, but wants to push very expensive legislation as President. He wants to provide primary school education to 100 million children in Africa. He wants to introduce universal health care. He wants to make college/university education free to everyone. What he hasn't done, however, is explain exactly how he plans to pay for this if he is going to cut most people's taxes...the only thing left to cut out of the budget is national security funds and increase corporate and upper-class taxes, which then affects jobs.
I think many Democrats even sense a bit more style-than-substance with Edwards, and that's why those who are looking for a "change candidate" are drifting towards Barack Obama instead, who has campaigned with a suprising measured amount of "style" as to shine more focus on his substance.
Also, independents do not seem to support Edwards, and the prevailing wisdom in my mind is that he is the least likely of the major Dem candidates to make any attempts to "work across the aisle" and would add fuel to the fire of bitter partisanship. Even Hillary Clinton, whose name is divisive in it's own right, has tried to work with Republicans like Newt Gingrich on health care reform.
Nonetheless, his populist liberalism does resonate with enough people to have him poll a solid 3rd place in most polls. However, after 2004 and this year, I think his time as an "upper tier" political figure will have come and gone.