John Edwards Endorses Barack Obama – What does it All Mean?

Today, John Edwards officially endorsed Barack Obama’s campaign for President, and as we prepare for this story to get churned through the news cycle over the coming weeks, let’s take a step back and think about the significance of this endorsement for the Democratic primary.

 

The Math

First, the objective meaning of Edwards’ endorsement: with 18 pledged delegates, Senator Edwards can now increase Barack Obama’s lead over Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. During April’s Pennsylvania primaries, Clinton made a net gain of 12 delegates (she won 85 to Obama’s 73), and when she won Indiana, Clinton took home four (38 for Clinton, 34 for Obama). Basically, John Edwards now has the option of giving his pledged delegate to Barack Obama, thus erasing the advantage she fought so hard for, and staked so much in over the past few weeks.

 

Edwards’ Demographic Appeal

It’s something we’ve all heard over and over again:  while Barack Obama can win over African-Americans and affluent Democrats, Hillary Clinton has the advantage with low-income (or, to use a favorite phrase on cable news, “blue collar”) white voters. Clinton’s wins in states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, and West Virginia (a primary I’ll get to in a little bit) were credited to this popularity. However John Edwards represents a way for Obama to reach those groups. If we think back to December, everyone assumed that Edwards would get support from working-class male white voters, that Hillary Clinton would have a lock on women, and that Barack Obama would appeal to minority voters. With Obama still failing to draw blue-collar Democrats, the Edwards endorsement could be the ticket he needed to find their support.

 

But Does this Matter?

Endorsements haven’t meant much this primary season. We all remember the fuss made when Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, and John Kerry all gave their support to Barack Obama – but he ended up losing in Massachusetts. Although they make for good opening speakers at campaign rallies, having major politicians endorse your campaign is not a proven way for victory. Plus, with so few contests left (for the Democrats just Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota, and Guam remain) the Edwards effect doesn’t have much time to have an impact. However the most significant effect of this endorsement isn’t about votes or the primaries remaining…

 

Stunting the Clinton News Cycle

Hands up if you can still remember that Hillary Clinton won yesterday’s West Virginia primary? I thought so… By waiting to announce Edwards’ endorsement until today, the Obama campaign has massively shortened the news life of Hillary Clinton’s victory in West Virginia. If this story hadn’t broken today, we would have heard for days about the effect of her win on Tuesday – even if it wasn’t positive coverage, cable news would still be repeating that she won a state, affecting the minds of superdelegates in that “don’t think of an elephant” way. Now, very few people will remember this victory, it’s old news in the face of this major endorsement. And what Obama has effectively done is shift the focus from Clinton’s win to Obama’s new endorsement – he’s taken the question from “how does this win change things?” to “how does she respond?” There had been hints that Edwards was supporting Obama – a possible Freudian slip during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” May 9th almost gave it away (judge for yourself, http://youtube.com/watch?v=uR_Y5FqvFmU) – but the wait to announce is anything but coincidental. My guess is that Edwards came to his decision before North Carolina, decided to announce after seeing the results in NC/Indiana, and then waited (along with the Obama campaign) until after West Virginia to announce so that Clinton’s  victory celebration would be short-lived, and she would be on the back foot again.

 

This is a huge endorsement for the Obama campaign, and one that has to sting for Hillary Clinton. In the months since he dropped out, John Edwards has been seen as the “king-maker” in the 2008 Democratic primary, and we may have seen him do just that. Of course, rumors will now pop up about Edwards’ doing this to get himself a spot as VP on an Obama campaign, but for now what matters is that Barack Obama gets a fresh face (and, perhaps, even more money) on the trail, and Hillary Clinton just might be done for in the minds of superdelegates and party leadership, not to mention voters.

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One Response

  1. […] John Edwards Endorses Barack Obama – What does it All Mean? Why Did John Edwards Endorse Obama Today? Thread V THE RESPONSES TO EDWARDS’ ENDORSEMENT Edwards Endorses Obama, Says He Will Build ‘One America’ In Michigan, Edwards endorses Obama […]

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