Letter From New Orleans
Wright Thompson
9 de January de 2012, 5:06 PM
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college football point spread sheets. The crew made a ton of bets and later, riding in a campaign parade, the advisors updated the governor on scores, so that the narration went something like this:

(To waving supporters): How's your mama and dem?

(Under his breath to the crouched advisors reporting bad news in the game): Goddamn! Son of a bitch!

He might have been shady, but he was fun. Famously, when he beat Duke, one of his bumper stickers said, "Vote for the Crook: It's Important." He also authored the two greatest quotes in the history of American politics:

1. (On an opponent) "The only way I'm losing is if I get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."

2. (On David Duke) "We're both wizards in the sheets."

Even when he walked out of the courtroom after being found guilty, he smiled and offered a one-liner to reporters. "The Chinese have a saying that if you sit by the river long enough, the dead body of your enemy will come floating down the river," he said. "I suppose the feds sat by the river long enough, and here comes my body."

Then he crossed Main Street in Baton Rouge. Traffic came to a halt. Horns blared. And one woman leaned out the window and yelled in support, "You go, Governor!"

Floating around the kitchen as Edwin and I talk LSU football is his new wife.

"I'm Trina Edwards," she says with a smile.

I'm gonna be as respectful as I can here. She's a 32-year-old bombshell. She's hot. Not hot for someone married to an old guy. Not trashy hot, or country hot. Just plain hot. She wrote him a letter in prison after reading his book, and they began visiting. He likes to joke about the other inmates jockeying at the window to see her walk across the parking lot. Since this is Edwin, he's got a killer line for their courtship, too, which he's trotted out for New Orleans reporters: "I thought she was coming to visit me, but I think she thought she was entertaining the troops."

They got married in New Orleans, and when the pictures ran in the paper, old friends and foes alike nudged each other, as if to say: Ol' boy's still got it. In that picture, and a lot of them since, he looks giddy.

"He's out of jail," Carville says. "He's got a young wife, and he's having fun."

Trina's Facebook status updates about the circus of their daily life, from RV trips to Edwin watching Chris Rock, are a captivating read. Much better than a reality television show, which this seems destined to be. What's astonishing, though, are the comments people leave. Friends ask if he can get pardoned so he can run against Jindal. There are "Edwin for President" T-shirts for sale. Just out of prison, he's functioning as if it never happened. There is this deep reservoir of love and nostalgia, even from people whose politics differ from Edwards. They miss having a character as governor.

"Huey Long populism never died," says Anderson, the Times-Picayune political reporter, "it found a late 20th-century hero in E.W.E. ... He has a hard-core following, and based on the cuts the state has undergone in recent years, Jindal's ideologue approach to conservative values, and Blanco getting killed by the inept response following the 2005 hurricanes, a lot of folks look at E.W.E. as emblematic of 'the good ol' days.'"

Even some Louisiana Republicans pushed for Bush to pardon Edwards before leaving office, and there is a sense here that he was too harshly punished. "The school of thought is that he probably spent three years too long in prison," Carville says.

The economy in the state remains rough, and the partisan divide grows worse. Jindal seems to have national aspirations in a way that Edwin never did. Edwards' dream was to be governor of Louisiana. He loved his job and now, traveling around the state, seeing old friends, making new ones, he is loving that embrace. There's nothing to fear from him anymore, so even his enemies seem ready to let the past fade away. He's doing this to make money, yes, but he's also doing it because he likes it.

"He might be older," Anderson says, "but his ego is still the same."

There are no more elections for Edwin Edwards, but there is a final campaign, and he seems to be running for the thing every politician craves: the way a crowd makes you feel, how it can polish achievements and push failures into the shadows. Many get into the game for that feeling, and then they convince themselves — and everyone around them, if they're good — that there are other reasons to want such power.

That's what's wonderful about watching this journey. There's no artifice, no hollow stump speeches and hot orations about people's pain. There is only the naked, earnest search for love, and that makes this the most honest campaign ever run in the state of Louisiana.

There was another cartoon in the Times-Picayune recently. It showed Edwin and Trina, and the governor had two fingers raised on his hand.

"V for Victory?" one character asked.

"Viagra," another replied.

Edwin saw the cartoon and laughed. Trina laughed, too, and Edwin said, "I don't need Viagra ...Viagra needs me. Doesn't the Times-Picayune know they use my blood to make that stuff?"

He is an 84-year-old felon, a former congressman, and four-time governor of Louisiana. He is a new husband, and he has a book to hawk. He's done time and managed to put more than a billion dollars in the bank for Louisiana's children. In this final act, there is joy in the house of Edwards, and he feels it everywhere he goes, from small-town parades to the BCS National Championship Game, where his Tigers will play and where he, no longer inmate 03128-095, will get to see it live. Listen to the crowd if E.W.E. finds his way onto the Superdome Jumbotron. Look at the expression on his face when he hears it.

In his kitchen, Edwards and I finished our conversation about football and I began my good-byes. I mentioned that I'd be in touch with Trina. Edwin wheeled around, and I'm almost certain he was kidding.

"I don't want you talking to my wife by phone, by smoke signal, or by Facebook," he said in that Cajun drawl. "Get out."

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at wrightespn@gmail.com.

Previously from Wright Thompson: The Best Pizza in the South On Whiskey and Grease: A Yoknapatawpha Wake Four Nights at Elaine's: The Last Will and Testament of a Great Saloon The hunchback and the lost art of the Birmingham dog

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