Evidently John Edwards is not a very important person. I know this, because he told me so.
In two interviews given today, on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and on Morning Joe, he downplayed his importance with, well, everybody. Stating several times that he doesn’t have much, if any, influence on either campaign’s strategy or who people are going to vote for, and claiming on both shows that “Barack Obama has done very well without John Edward’s endorsement” he quelled any hope that an endorsement would be forthcoming prior to a candidate being named. There seems to be a lot of speculation why, ranging from an ongoing feud between him and his lovely wife, Elizabeth, to a push for a vice president seat (again). His argument seems to be that it doesn’t matter much anyway, so why muddy up the waters.
It’s an argument that seems to be well shared. Much to the chagrin of the Obama campaign, many in the media report there are a number of potential supporters who have not sided with Obama because the race is going to be over soon enough anyway. To this end, Obama may have actually hurt his case by more or less declaring himself the presumptive nominee. It’s hard to go to the superdelegates and say “I need you to support me now to end this” when you’re telling the public the contest is over, even if there’s still a few more minutes left in the game. Why not just wait those extra few weeks? After all, better safe then sorry.
I’m not sure that Edwards has any ulterior motives to withholding an endorsement. There’s not really a “poverty czar” in the U.S., so a cabinet position is probably not going to be in the cards. And I highly doubt he’s going to be a finalist for any candidate’s veep. To be frank, Obama doesn’t need him. Obama has won over the majority of the crowd that Edwards could help him pull in; he does very well in the deep south and Edwards didn’t help Kerry bring in the “Mason-Dixon” states like Kentucky or North Carolina. And he wasn’t really an effective running mate for Kerry; many people in the Democrat party blamed him for Kerry’s loss because he did not fight hard for Kerry and seemed more interested in using his candidacy as a stepping stone to the Presidency than winning the 2004 campaign. Personally, I think this argument, and the same was given to Lieberman in 2000, has some merit, but the biggest problems of Kerry and Gore have more to do with bad Presidential candidates than bad V.P. choices (to say I think Gore would have been a terrific President is a bit of an understatement, but didn’t exactly run a flawless campaign). So it’s difficult to see either candidate opening up to him.
However, I do think Edwards is doing some political posturing. He does want to be important; by his admission he’s gotten a taste of what it’s like to not be, and is not putting it past Clinton to somehow squeak out the nomination. One thing the Clinton’s have made clear so far is their (mythical) administration is not going to be kind to the Obama supporters. So if Edwards does respect Hillary Clinton and also thinks she has even an outside chance of pulling an upset (and I do not doubt either claim), then it really doesn’t make any sense to endorse now.
And I would certainly hesitate to say he is unimportant. Edwards was the only white male candidate who seriously contended for the Democratic nomination. Given the length of the race, that is really saying something. And I do believe an Edwards endorsement would make other superdelegates think long and hard about the candidate he gets behind, and may be enough to drag some other committed “uncommitteds” away from their faux-neutrality. Further, Edwards does have a very important role to play in the future if a democrat wins the Presidency. He may not get a cabinet position, but I think it would be an error for either candidate not to keep him close by in some sort of official advisory role. Especially through the nomination. Relying on a populist message doesn’t win a lot of elections in its own right, but having a populist surrogate doesn’t hurt anybody, either.
Not that there aren’t very good signs of who he’s leaning towards. On Morning Joe, he was asked if he would endorse the candidate he voted for in North Carolina’s primary. His response: “It’s highly likely.” He stood by the remark later in the program, after he said that it was “clearly likely” that Barack is going to be the nominee. So this really only leads to two conclusions: either he voted for Obama, or it’s highly likely he’s going to endorse the candidate that ends up losing, after she already lost.
Fortunately for Clinton, his endorsement doesn’t really mean that much.
I must say, Clinton has really gone off the deep end. I’m sure she’s more stressed out than she’s letting on. Her campaign aides are saying things like: “There is a profound sadness . . . I don’t think anyone sees that there’s a clear path to victory here.” Ouch.
But in justifying her own existence in a race which, to put it bluntly, she’s not going to win, she’s started to really lay it out on the line. And it ain’t pretty. Yesterday she said “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on . . . Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” She did not speculate on why she’s losing if her coalition is so much stronger, nor did she explain why people who completed college or non-whites should not be insulted with the implication that we aren’t “hard working Americans.” The day before, she justified her continuation by claiming “Too many people have fought too hard to see a woman continue in this race, this history-making race, and I want everybody to understand that.”
So putting two and two together, I guess blacks will be too busy sitting on their lazy asses to go to the polls, while us “college folk” are too persnickety to vote, so only white women have really worked hard enough to get “their” candidate elected. Meanwhile, you’ve played the race card and the gender card in less time then it takes Jack Bauer to save the world. Wow. Congratulations on hitting a new low, there. (And that’s quite an accomplishment, as the Clintons could beat Hermes Conrad in a limbo contest.) Well, I guess when you’re losing on the issues, losing the popular vote, losing the delegate count, running out of cash, and no less than the American government itself treats your opponent like he’s a “rock star,” race and gender are all you’ve got left.