Instapundit posts today on John Edwards:
An influential segment of the Republican Party hates trial lawyers — but not all Republicans, much less swing voters, feel the same way. Republicans who think that just calling someone a trial lawyer will swing voters against them are out of touch.
… and also quotes from Virginia Postrel:
John Edwards won’t carry the South, or even North Carolina, for John Kerry, but he may cost the Republicans some votes, as they misunderestimate him–and wildly overestimate the unpopularity of his profession.
I disagree. Yes, Edwards has (obviously) been effective in arguing before small, carefully-selected trial juries (I doubt very many of which were chosen for their analytical abilities), but both Reynolds and Postrel are ignoring the real blow-back from the jackpot jurisprudence exemplified by Edwards’ career.
It’s easy for a juror to side with a plaintiff’s lawyer and give a big award to the family of a sick kid–why not; that rich doctor has insurance, doesn’t he?–but it’s a different story at an electoral level when Bush and Cheney can point to all the communities where doctors, particularly OB-GYNs, have been forced to leave their practices because of skyrocketing malpractice insurance. It also won’t be very hard for the GOP to find businesses and factories that were forced to close shop and lay off everybody on the payroll after massive punitive judgements. Pointing out the percentages of those judgements that go to the plaintiff’s attorneys won’t exactly jibe with Edwards’ populist speechifying, either.
Reynolds and Postrel are probably right about dislike of trial lawyers being oversized among Republicans, but that’s a far cry from saying such dislike doesn’t exist in the general populace, particularly relative to people’s opinions about doctors. As I wrote quite a while back in comparing the two professions, the least reputable doctor in any given town is probably thought of more highly than the most successful lawyer. Given that Edwards made many of his millions suing doctors, pitting MD’s against JD’s could well be a strong political move for the GOP.
But only if the VP doesn’t go MIA and land us all on KP, of course.