John Edwards looks and sounds too smooth for traction in this Democratic scramble. On the stump in New Hampshire last night, the millionaire trial lawyer and first-term Senator from North Carolina reminded me of the old Downeast joke about the Maine fella spinning his wheels in the Spring mud. Passer-by: “Are you stuck?” Maine fella: “Well, I would be if I was going anywhaya.” Maybe John Edwards was too Ken-doll handsome anyway–People Magazine’s “sexiest politician” of 2001, Rush Limbaugh’s “Breck Girl.” But make your own judgment on his pitch to the patient Democrats of Merrimack last night. I didn’t hear Edwards addressing the dismay on people’s faces and in their questions. President Bush had presented his $87 billion bill the night before, for what sounds like war without end in the Middle East. New Hampshire folk are wont to count this out in nickels and dimes. But Edwards (who voted the war authorization) did not mention Iraq until he was asked about it. His answer is to internationalize the cost and fighting burden. On one big point Edwards rose to something like personal passion: he is outraged by secret detentions and electronic snooping under the Patriot Act, as administered by Attorney General Ashcroft. The Patriot Act must be amended, Edwards said. He neglected to mention that he’d voted for it. Listen here for the sound of a summer’s evening in Southern New Hampshire.