It looks like John Edwards is leaving the 2008 race.
Edwards was an also-ran in the race, but it is somewhat surprising that he is giving up before Super Tuesday. Generally candidates don’t leave unless the money is tight, and Edwards seems to have been doing well enough in terms of fundraising to stay on for a while. Then again, given Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, it’s also quite possible that family concerns are understandably influencing Edwards’ decision.
The question is where Edward’ support will go. Based on the previous contests, much of Edwards’ support may go to Hillary—she’s the one who seems to have the greatest appeal to union voters and lower-income voters, both of whom were demographic groups thats most strongly identified with Edwards. It would also be strategically wise for Clinton to pick up Edwards for the VP position—Edwards has some appeal with the “NASCAR voters” that Clinton alienates and would broaden her geographic appeal. It would also help Clinton with the far-left base of the Democratic Party who have embraced Edwards.
It was only a matter of time before Edwards quit, but to have Edwards quit before Super Tuesday creates an opportunity for one of the two Democratic candidates to vault ahead of the other in what is likely to be a very close race. The question that everyone will be asking now is how those Edwards voters break.
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty offers some kind words towards Edwards:
As much as we may grind our teeth in response to Edwards’ economic snake oil, and mock other characteristics (the YouTube hair fussiness, the giant house, the work for a hedge fund to “learn about poverty”, the exorbitant speaking fees, the $400 haircut)… he’s a man with a family, who soldiered on into an exhausting effort, at the urging of his wife who’s taking on cancer that may end her life. Elizabeth’s cancer didn’t turn into a political prop, and there was something inspiring in the way that this couple treated the worst possible news one could imagine as a minor impediment to what they saw as the mission of their lives. Some of us are left wondering if we would be able to fight on the way they did if tragedy struck our lives in the same way.
Keep this man far away from elected office – and keep an eye on the rumor that Obama would make him Attorney General – but wish him and his family well as they continue on life’s path ahead.
It’s always good to get a reminder that are political adversaries are also human beings, and we shouldn’t let differences of ideology or policy distract us from that. In today’s cutthroat political world, too many times we tend to forget.