John Edwards (D-NC) finally bowed to the political reality that he was in a two-person race for his party's nomination - and he was neither one of the two candidates that voters were supporting: "It's time for me to step aside so that history can ... blaze its path."
As he racked up loss after loss (second item), many wondered whether his true aim in continuing in the race was to pick up enough delegates here and there under the Democratic Party's proportional representation to become a spoiler or a kingmaker at the national convention in Denver. Former Edwards consultant Tad Devine recently told The New York Times, "Even though he doesn't expect to win, he expects to do well enough to win delegates. Anybody who can command 15 percent of the vote and get on the ballot can wind up with literally hundreds of delegates at the convention, and that's a pretty strong position to be in."
Washington Post pundit Charles Krauthammer, who described Edwards' campaign as "a spectacle" and "a cynical farce that is particularly galling to authentic and principled left-liberals," was outraged that Edwards would try to rig the race to extract a consolation prize from the eventual nominee:
There's losing. There's losing honorably. And then there's John Edwards. ...
He stays in the race because ... Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton might end up in a very close delegate race - perhaps allowing an also-ran with, say, 10 percent of the delegates to act as kingmaker at the convention.
It's a prize of sorts; it might even be tradeable for a Cabinet position.
Robert Novak speculated that the prize Edwards has his eye on was attorney general in an Obama administration.
It could well be. But the race has taken on a complexion that complicates matters for a would-be kingmaker. And while many of his campaign workers and supporters are expected to throw in with Obama, Edwards himself did not endorse either of his rivals.
In SC, Hillary and Edwards split the white vote, with about 40 percent each; in FL Obama and Edwards each earned 22 percent of the white vote. Obama may capture an increased share of wealthy, liberal-progressive white vote in the Northeast on Super Duper Tuesday, while Hillary may find her white blue collar base strengthened in other parts of the country. Dartmouth College political scientist Linda Fowler tells The Boston Globe, that working-class white men could choose to stay home rather than back either candidate. In that event, she thinks Obama will benefit in Southern states.
With the racial disharmony that Hillary's campaign tactics created, Edwards could only be tarnished by staying in the race longer. Writing for OpinionJournal's Political Diary (e-mail subscription required), Collin Levy notes that getting out now "prevented his candidacy from becoming the last stand of the Anglo-Saxon Democratic male - or, worse, a refuge for Democrats who can't bring themselves to vote for a black or a woman."
Fred Thompson (R-TN), who never stood a chance of winning SC (or anywhere, for that matter), was not gracious enough to get out of the way so that Mike Huckabee (R-AR) could build on his IA win. But by dropping out well before February 5th Edwards is giving Obama a fighting chance against Hillary.