Yesterday, some very big news came from the U.S.: John Edwards was dropping out of the Democratic primary race. This is pretty huge for a number of reasons. Not only was he polling around 10-15% in most states, but he was positioned to have enough delegates, come the end of Super Tuesday, to possibly be the ‘king maker’. That is to say, he would have had enough delegates to put either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton over the ‘magic number’ of 2025 delegates. Especially Obama, as it’s not expected that he will come out with more delegates than Clinton after Super Tuesday. Though we are hoping for it.
His drop-out, though, couldn’t have come at a better time. When the media would have been reporting about Clinton’s meaningless Florida win, they are now, instead, talking about Edwards and Rudy Giuliani dropping out. A win, in terms of news cycles, for Obama. Similarly, when he finally comes round to endorsing someone, assuming it’s Obama, then there’s another news cycles devoted to topics other than Clinton.
Edwards already had 62 delegates, and assuming he picked up, say, a tenth of all the delegates available on Super Tuesday (with the good chance that he would pick up more through 2nd’s in some states), then he would have been into the couple-hundreds. By the end of the race, he might have had a chunk that would have given him more negotiating room to leverage himself into the V.P. position.
However, saying that, it’s unlikely that anyone would choose a twice failed primary runner, and once failed V.P. already, especially if he had chosen to stick the fight out and get dragged along the way to Colorado. If he hasn’t lost every state in sight, then he looks a little better. Plus, he definitely isn’t going to win any state himself, so maybe it was a good face-saving move to get out early. I don’t know. It’s a hard call to make.
With his departure, things seem to be clearer now. We will have a clear winner – either Obama or Clinton. There is not one that can take enough delegates away from either and still not win. This may be good, it may be bad. It’s good because the winner won’t look like an ‘Edwards-deal’, and they will have won on their own rights. But it’s bad because a lot of people were expecting an Edwards endorsement of Obama to get Obama the win.
An endorsement, now, doesn’t seem to make things any more helpful. Especially in terms of voters. Assuming that 10-15% of votes are now up for grabs that were previously Edwards’, where will they go? Edwards routinely made Clinton out to be his arch-nemesis, so you would think that the votes would flow straight to Obama. But a majority of Edward’s voters were white – a category Clinton is winning in. So they would go to her, right? No, because most of them are men, a category that Obama is winning in. To further complicate the matters, the Edwards supporters are low-to-middle income Democrats, which is a category Clinton is winning in. From all this, they could just end up splitting between them evenly.
Edwards dropping out further changes the race because now it’s a two-person race. It gives it a presidential-feel too. The debates will be one-on-one, and without Edwards around to be the punching bag of the two, it will be very interesting to see Obama vs. Clinton. And with Clinton winning most (not all) debates, Obama will have to step up if he is to take the lead. The next debate, today I believe, will, I feel, set the tone for the rest of this race – with Clinton and Obama looking to gain points for Super Tuesday to secure themselves at all costs.
Saying all of that, I’m disappointed to see him go in a way. Edwards was a good politician, and a good Democrat. He would have made a good president I think. And to think, if John Kerry’s race in 2004 hadn’t been such a failure, it could have been Edwards running for reelection as V.P., then, come four years, election as president. So long John.