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His cover may have more deliberately masculine overtones than Obama's professorial turn, but the fashion and luxury orientation of Men's Vogue remains. In Edwards' home state, a political blogger for the News & Observer wrote, "One of the central questions of the piece…is whether Edwards can live down the $400 haircut and win the hearts of Southern voters. Left unaddressed is how appearing in Men's Vogue will help. Was Details not available?"
As Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told WWD: "At one level, it's probably not a smart thing to do because it keeps the focus on the frivolous stuff that is a distraction from Edwards' message, no matter what the substance of the story. It kind of undermines the messages and the sincerity of it no matter how much he talks or jokes about it." Still, he added, Edwards' position as third in line may mute the attention he gets on anything. The Edwards campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
But some argued that in a campaign, media ubiquity should trump all, so long as the venue is respectable. "I think the piece reflected John Edwards' commitment to ending poverty, and I'm not sure anybody reading Men's Vogue cares about the cost of the haircut," said Stephanie Cutter, who was communications director on Sen. John Kerry's campaign.
The apparently corresponding Elizabeth Edwards profile in Vogue itself led observers to wonder if the Edwardses were a two for one deal — and if so, which came first? A spokeswoman for both magazines said the stories originated independently, with Men's Vogue approaching John Edwards "last year." And, though Annie Leibovitz shot both portraits, the spokeswoman said: "We were very far along when we learned there was an Elizabeth Edwards portrait subsequent to ours in North Carolina, also with Annie. On the day of that shoot, Annie got some extra time with the senator for a solo cover shot at his home." Enter pickup truck.