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John Edwards Endorses Obama, Steals Hillary’s Thunder

by @ 6:45 am on May 15, 2008. Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Politics

Former Presidential candidate John Edwards, who has sat on the sidelines of the Presidential race since dropping out, has finally endorsed a candidate:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 14 — Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards gave his long-sought endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday night, calling on Democrats to unite behind him and turn their attention to the fall campaign.

“The reason I am here tonight,” Edwards declared, “is the voters have made their choice, and so have I.”

Edwards had been heavily courted by Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton since he quit the race three months ago. His decision to climb off the fence with just five contests remaining is likely to yield limited benefits, but it sends a strong signal that Edwards, at least, thinks the nomination battle is over.

Appearing with Obama at a rally here, the former senator from North Carolina and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee gave what sounded in places like a eulogy for Clinton’s candidacy, praising her tenacity and describing her as “made of steel.” But he emphasized that the party must now get behind Obama.

“When this nomination battle is over, and it will be over soon, brothers and sisters,” he said, “we must come together as Democrats and in the fall stand up for what matters in America and make America what it needs to be.”

Friends said Edwards told Obama of his decision on Tuesday night, as Clinton was thumping Obama by 41 points in the West Virginia primary and winning the overwhelming support of working-class white voters at the heart of Edwards’s candidacy. Still on the ballot, Edwards received 7 percent of the vote there.

I’m sure that somewhere in the back of Obama’s mind during that particular phone call was something along the lines of “Gee John, it sure took you long enough.”

And, it’s unclear that Edwards’ endorsement means much at this point.

For one thing, he’s been out of the race since February and anyone in the remaining primary states who might have supported him has most likely already gotten behind one of the two remaining candidates. For another, Edwards wasn’t exactly a powerhouse in the race to begin with; he consistently came in a distant third to Clinton and Obama, and had only 19 delegates when he left the race. Lastly, the one time that his endorsement might have meant something — before the primary in his home state — he sat on the sidelines and did nothing.

That said, there are a few benefits to the Edwards endorsement.

First, that’s at least one more superdelegate in Barack Obama’s corner and possibly more if Edwards’ endorsement convinces other superdelegates to act. Second, there’s the matter of those 19 pledged delegates that Edwards has in his pocket:

The short version is that 16 Edwards delegates have already been named. He’s slated to get another 3 in Iowa, but now that he has officially ended his campaign, Edwards’ Iowa co-chair is urging that state convention delegates there support Obama, so it’s possible that Obama will pick up those 3 instead of Edwards.

Technically, the 16 pledged Edwards delegates are now free agents, effectively superdelegates. (The total could go up to 19 depending on what happens in Iowa.) Since the pledged were selected by the Edwards campaign, and the Edwards campaign apparatus is urging its delegates to unify behind Barack Obama, I suspect they will mostly be loyal, but there’s no absolute guarantees.

No, but it’s unlikely that Edwards’ delegates will go for Clinton at this point and Democratic Convention Watch has already noted that at least three of Edwards’ delegates have announced their support for Obama.

Those 19-or-so delegates won’t tip the balance, but the will increase the momentum in Obama’s direction.

Finally, Edwards’ endorsement last night, timed as it was so that it would be on the front page of the newspapers this morning and on the top of the topic list on the morning shows and on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, pretty much blunts whatever momentum Hillary Clinton may have had coming out of West Virginia.

More importantly, it sets the agenda for what the media will be talking about in the days before Kentucky and Oregon. The discussion now won’t be about whether Clinton has a chance to comeback, but when Obama will finally get the delegates he needs to claim victory. The fact that the endorsement took place not in Louisville or Portland, but in Grand Rapids, Michigan was itself a signal that, as far as the Obama campaign is concerned, the primary campaign is over and the General Election campaign is beginning.

Someone needs to clue Hillary in to reality.

One Response to “John Edwards Endorses Obama, Steals Hillary’s Thunder”

  1. [...] other news, the blogosphere is all atwitter with news that Obama’s great buddy and possible veep choice¬† John Edwards may be cheating on his wife, the great Elizabeth [...]

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