Obama and John Edwards

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why John Edwards has not endorsed Obama or Clinton. John Heilemann thinks that Obama didn’t impress Edwards as Clinton did when talking about poverty:

According to a Democratic strategist unaligned with any campaign but with knowledge of the situation gleaned from all three camps, the answer is simple: Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

Noam Scheiber has a different take:

Reading between the lines, I got the impression Edwards’s calculations were mostly dictated by–surprise!–self-interest. Early on, he wasn’t sure Obama was tough enough to beat Hillary. Or to reassure voters and superdelegates that he’d be able to win the general. And what good does it do you to endorse a guy who’s going to lose?

Since then, Obama’s obviously become the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, which has changed Edwards’s calculus. The risk is no longer endorsing a guy who may lose. (At least in the primaries.) It’s that you won’t get credit for helping Obama win. Endorsing Obama at this point would basically mean jumping on a bandwagon, and there’s no percentage in that. So I’m guessing Edwards is biding his time until there’s a moment when his endorsement would matter–for example, when it could help bump Hillary from the race. (Say, after a loss in the North Carolina primary.)

I suspect that Scheiber’s interpretation is right but I actually wish that Heilemann’s account was what really happened, after correcting for some anti-Obama spin. I’m not sure if he would have done so considering how tight the race was at the time, but personally I’d think even more highly of Obama if he went to meet John and Elizabeth Edwards and told them that their economic ideas are idiotic, even at the expense of their support.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    deepseas says:

    Edwards strikes me as arrogant and a sore loser. Heilemann’s take doesn’t make sense. Obama is thorough in his agenda on the issues and has an even temperament. His description of Obama’s response to Edwards sounds more like Clinton’s character.

    There could even be a more sinister reason Edwards doesn’t want to support Obama. But, I was never impressed with Edwards. He talks a good talk. Yet, the fact that he sacrificed his wife’s serious health issue over his campaign, as well as his need to look “perfect” before the camera tells me he is looking to feed his ego.

    Sheesh! Why can’t these people be honest with us?

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