The Edwards Endorsement Question

Word has it today Senator Obama has met with John & Elizabeth Edwards at their home in Chapel Hill, NC.  Senator Clinton met with them on Feb. 7 prior to the Potomac Primaries.  Both are seeking Edwards’ endorsement, but what will they gain?  Should Edwards endorse at all during the primaries?  What would Edwards gain from his endorsement?

Edwards relevance to the campaign has diminished since he suspended his candidacy last month.  He holds 26 delegates, which isn’t really saying much, considering how many more are still out there in states yet to primary.  Unions are supporting Obama in larger numbers than Clinton, providing endorsements that hold more sway over more people.

Many Edwards supporters would not welcome a Clinton endorsement- after all, if they were Hillary fans, they wouldn’t have been Edwards supporters in the first place.  Edwards would lose the respect of those supporters, and would undermine his anti-corporate government stance.  Edwards made both candidates “promise” to further the cause of reducing poverty in America,  Obama’s plan to do so is much more prominent than Hillary’s- buried in her website.

Edwards decision could hinge on what role he wants to play in the next administration.  If I were him, I wouldn’t touch a VP slot under Hillary with a 10-foot pole.  He’d be marginalized as Gore was under Bill, and would have to compete with Bill for everything.  Lots of folks talk about the Attorney General job for Edwards, which could be a good match.  After all, with Edwards records of going after unethical corporations and Big Pharma, making the prior Bush Administration accountable for their actions will be a piece of cake.

The main reason Edwards would choose to endorse now are:

1)  To play kingmaker for Obama.  The Edwards endorsement would be widely viewed as further legitimization of Obama’s candidacy for real change in America.  An endorsement for Clinton would have a net negative effect on her campaign, and could further reinforce the view of some that Edwards’ is not genuine.

2) To secure a particular position in the next administration.  If this is really his goal, I would be disappointed.  Edwards has many opportunities to continue his anti-poverty work, and if he gets asked to the dance after the election, so be it.  He shouldn’t be using the endorsement chip for this purpose- it only makes him look like an opportunist.

The best thing Edwards could do is stay neutral until after the convention.  He should consider taking the high road with Gore, and work to see that the Democratic Party listens to the voters and doesn’t allow the superdelegates to give the store away to whoever will best serve their own personal interests.  After all, someone has to be there to balance out Howard Ickes.  Plus, by staying neutral, Edwards avoids endorsing a possible losing candidate- a position that would make him less relevant and less savvy.

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