Edwards Quits Race, Possibly Giving Clinton a Needed Boost

Just when Obama appeared to have all the momentum going into Super Tuesday there has been another game changer which might work to Clinton’s advantage. John Edwards has dropped out of the race. He is not currently endorsing either of the candidates, leaving some question as to who this helps more.

Among conservative bloggers there appears to be a consensus that this helps Obama. Ed Morrissey sums up this viewpoint:

Edwards has until now split the Hillary opposition with Barack Obama. His departure provides a single point of focus for those who resent the Clinton influence within the party — a faction that has grown, undoubtedly, after the nasty and mean-spirited campaigning of Bill Clinton over the last month. Democratic pundits and politicians alike have raised their voices against the Restoration, and now Obama personifies the opportunity to prevent it.

Edwards essentially has taken himself out of the middleman role. Hillary now has to contend with Obama by herself, with no one to run interference for her, on the eve of the closest thing we’ve ever had to a national primary. This could very well be the tipping point for the Clintons.

Gaius also leans towards a similar view, even questioning if his supporters would go with Clinton if Edwards were to ultimately endorse her. The analysis of Democratic voters as being primarily for or against Clinton is the strongest argument that this will help Obama, and he will certainly pick up some support.

Obama will pick up more of the intellectual and better educated voters, and I suspect that more pro-Edwards bloggers will move to Obama than Clinton. Those who view the election in more abstract terms as being about “change” are hardly going to vote for Clinton.

The situation is different among the actual voters. Clinton and Edwards are both vying for the same downscale Democratic vote. They both appeal more to the “gimme” vote, or those who ask “what can my country do for me?” I’ve seen compelling arguments that Obama’s proposals would do more for poverty and the lower middle class than those of either Edwards or Clinton, but it is Edwards and Clinton who have been most effective at pandering appealing to such voters. We will have to see how Obama now responds to the challenge of appealing to Edwards voters.

The absence of Edwards from the race is also significant following the race baiting tactics of the Clintons. As seen in South Carolina, many of the voters who Clinton was successful in keeping from voting for a black candidate wound up going to Edwards as opposed to Clinton. It is not clear what they will do now.

The effect of Edwards’ departure from the race will vary among different types of voters, and the net effect could vary from state to state. On the whole I believe this will help Clinton more, but it might not be enough to change the results. The momentum is moving in Obama’s direction and it remains questionable if Clinton will pick up enough voters from Edwards to counteract this momentum as well as the backlash which is developing over her unethical tactics.

If nothing else, this change makes a primary battle which was already interesting even more so going into Super Tuesday, which does have the potential to settle the nomination in a two way race. Thursday’s debate now becomes a one on one event which might have significant impact going into the closest thing we have to a national primary. Both Clinton and Obama will be looking at appealing to Edwards supporters, the delegates Edwards has accumulated, and Edwards himself. Edwards has suggested that Obama is closest to his view of change, but his endorsement will come down to who offers more in return. An endorsement from Edwards would help either candidate, but the other factors I’ve discussed might remain more important in determining the future votes of many Edwards supporters.

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8 Comments

  1. 1
    Ryan says:

    What do you think about this:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Illinois Democrats close to Sen. Barack Obama are quietly passing the word that John Edwards will be named attorney general in an Obama administration.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    There’s been lots of talk about that. It is a compromise I could live with but not what I would desire. After the mess created by Bush I would prefer to have an Attorney General with a stronger background in Constitutional law and civil liberties.

    I’ve also seen mention of him for the Supreme Court. I actually wouldn’t mind that as much as Attorney General as on the Supreme Court there is value in having different people with different legal backgrounds.

    I wonder if he really wants to be VP. Earlier I thought that he wouldn’t be interested in running for VP as he’s already done that. However being VP might be his only realistic route to ever becoming president. As a two time loser I don’t see him having much of a chance in future Democratic primaries unless he enters as the presumptive favorite such as sitting Vice President.

  3. 3
    Wayne says:

    I think that most of these “whisperings” are at best wishful thinking, and most likely complete fabrications. At this point in the game, it is far to early for a candidate to start thinking about a running mate, much less cabinet members. And as for Edwards as AG, I don’t see how having a former ambulance chaser as AG would be a step up from Gonzalez.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’m sure that the candidates would prefer not to have to consider running mates and cabinet positions at this point, but if they think Edwards can really determine who will win they might be willing to give in. The biggest problem with these scenarios is that I think that an Edwards endorsement would only bring in a portion of his supporters beyond those already likely to go with a particular candidate.

    I don’t see Edwards as being particularly qualified to be Attorney General but at least he’d probably be an improvement over Gonzalez. You are setting the bar quite low with that one.

  5. 5
    Christopher says:

    I think Edwards announcement could cut either way.

    Yes, it may help Hillary but on the other hand, if Edwards endorses Obama, it will have the opposite effect and help Obama.

    Then, there’s the issue of what Edwards will do with his delegates.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    The delegates are free to do what they choose but an endorsment from Edwards could influence them. I actually suspect that the delegates will break more for Obama than the actual voters might. I think that this is especially true of the super delegates who backed Edwards early as I bet that being anti-Clinton is a major part of their motivation. In the caucus states the actual delegates haven’t even been chosen and I suspect that more of the Edwards delegates at the county and state conventions will go for Obama.

    An endorsement from Edwards will help but I still think more voters will vote based upon the factors which got them to support Edwards as opposed to personal loyalty to John Edwards. I think this will cut more in Clinton’s favor, but an endorsement for Obama could be enough to even it out.

  7. 7
    Badger3k says:

    Hopefully Edwards won’t endorse either. As far as I can tell, neither one is worth respect, or my vote. I’ll just vote for whoever will do the least damage to this country and the Constitution in the next four years, and hope that few of my brothers and sisters in the military will die before they get their heads out of the asses (or their pocketbooks).

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    Obama is clearly the better choice both with regards to the war and the Constitution. Obama opposed the war while Clinton supported it. Obama’s background as a professor of Constitutional law sometimes comes through in interviews even if he tries to avoid sounding like a professor while campaigning. The rare times that interviews get to real substance on issues such as separation of church and state or limiting presidential power Obama comes through as a much stronger civil libertarian than Clinton.

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