Is John Edwards the Democratic version of John McCain? Four years ago, that would have been considered a favorable comparison. Not anymore. “Outside of McCain, no top-shelf presidential candidate had a more difficult first six months than Edwards did,” say the members of the NBC News political unit who put together the First Read blog for “He raised less than half what Clinton and Obama pulled in; his candidacy lacks some of the buzz and luster his first one did; and his campaign (with the stories about $400 haircuts and his work for a hedge fund) has lost control of his image.”

Would Edwards’s campaign be helped by a different debate format? Edwards’s wife, Elizabeth, says her husband wants to thin the roster of candidates during the overcrowded debates. Fewer debaters would equal more debate, Mrs. Edwards suggests. She writes in a post at the Democratic activist site

John meant what he said in Iowa: he wants smaller groups (or longer debates) so that there can be an end to the notion that a candidate can skate through the debates with sound bite answers. Everyone has sixty seconds to explain their [health] care plan and John’s truly universal plan ends up sounding just like a “plan” to talk about health care. It does a disservice to the voters. Since no one (maybe not even the candidates’ spouses!) would watch a three hour debate, it seems more sensible to have a series of randomly constituted smaller groups.