Commentary Magazine


Is John Edwards Right?

The latest media obsession is whether John Edwards will endorse either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and if so, which one. He visited Obama yesterday. His dilemma is described as follows:

People close to the Edwardses, speaking privately, say they have been torn about whom to support. The former North Carolina senator is concerned that Obama may not be ready for the presidency and that his health care plan is inferior. But Edwards was highly critical of Clinton — her policies, her ties to special interests and her character — during his campaign, making it more difficult to support her now.

This neatly sums up the problem that many Democrats face: do they choose the novice or a return to the Clinton melodrama. (While Republicans, despite fears of Obama’s electoral appeal, may be rooting for the fall of Clinton, they may also find the possibility of an Obama presidency — and his apparent foreign policy team — somewhat chilling.) As the race continues through the spring, into June and potentially up to the convention, it is not clear that either can put voters’ minds at ease. Clinton, after all, is who she is and comes with Bill and all he entails. Obama will not gain in experience or, absent some extraordinary situation, be able to dispel doubts about his toughness. It then is not surprising that Edwards, and many voters, find the choice a hard one.

Does Edwards really matter? In a race still close and likely not to be completed by June, small events take on exaggerated significance in the media storyline and, in this set of facts, may influence the superdelegates who will put one of the two candidates over the 2025 delegate mark. However, the more cynical among us may surmise that he simply wants to be on the winning side and will wait until the key March 4 primaries are decided. And remember, his 26 delegates might come in handy at the convention.