DENVER (AP) – Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters’ sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned.
The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty, according to two of his advisers. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning—Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
The former North Carolina senator will not immediately endorse either candidate in what is now a two-person race for the Democratic nomination, said one adviser, who spoke on a condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.
I question whether or not this is truly good news for Obama supporters because, for example, the entrance/exit polls that came out of Nevada showed that if Edwards dropped out of the race that 4 in 10 of his supporters would back Obama over Hillary. There are some contests that could be close enough to where Edwards support could put Obama over the top over Hillary. But it may not be as cut and dry as that, as we learn from The Fix blog (emphasis added):
Edwards’ departure also throws open the debate over whether his supporters will flock to Obama or Clinton.
Opinions differed in the moments after the decision became public.
Charlie Cook, a political analyst and publisher of the Cook Political Report, said that the racial divisions apparent in early votes could impact where Edwards’ supporters ultimately wind up.
“While one can plausibly argue that Edwards withdrawal may unite the anti-Clinton vote, one can also argue that Edwards overwhelmingly white block of supporters come loose and might behave much as other white Democrats have done in the contests after Iowa, not vote for Obama,” Cook said. “I don’t know which of those arguments will prevail.”
Carter Eskew, a senior Democratic strategist unaffiliated in this contest, offered a contrary opinion. He argued that “on balance” Edwards’ departure will help Obama more than Clinton. “The Edwards voter profile is closer to her voters, but if they weren’t for her before, not sure they will switch now,” he said.
Exit polling conducted yesterday in Florida suggests that Edwards supporters are equally inclined to back Obama and Clinton. Forty seven percent of Edwards backers in Florida said they would be “satisfied” with Clinton as the nominee with 13 percent saying they would be “very satisfied”. A similar 47 percent said they would be “satisfied” with Obama as the party’s standard bearer with 19 percent saying they would be “very satisfied”. Those trends were affirmed by exit poll data from South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 26 as more than six in 10 Edwards supporters said they would be satisfied with either Clinton or Obama as the nominee.
Edwards may be out of the race, but he may not be out of the running for something else – let’s not forget the rumor Robert Novak posted about Barack Obama considering asking Edwards to be his AG. I don’t even want to think about it, but I do believe it’s a real possibility.
One thing I’m looking forward to seeing in addition to tonight’s Republican debate at the Reagan Library, where sparks are sure to fly between McCain and Romney? Tomorrow night’s one on one debate between Barack and Hillary, which Jim Geraghty quips is “the Super Bowl for Democrats.”
Grab the popcorn!
Update: Ben Smith reports that the Obama and Clinton camps have been actively seeking Edwards’ endorsement today.