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Why John Edwards Suspended His Campaign

contributed by Charles Lemos

Yesterday was a forlorn day, one bereft of joy and hope, after learning that John Edwards had decided to suspend his campaign. It seemed a rather abrupt ending. Though the media is reporting that Edwards has withdrawn from the race that is not accurate. His exact words were:

Earlier today, I suspended my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.”

The distinction is a minor one but an important one. While John Edwards stands to lose some of his delegates, he gets to keep control over most of those he won in the contests here to date. Later in the day, I was able to speak with my local grassroots organization that was told that the decision was neither related to Elizabeth’s health nor the lack of funds. The catalyst for the decision were the results in Florida.

As John Edwards has been polling in the mid-teens to the low twenty percent range, I thought that rather odd. What had changed if the campaign had long believed that we would not win any states and that John Edwards had committed himself to staying in the race through the convention. Technically by suspending this campaign that pledge remains intact.

Then I recalled a conversation from the night after the last South Carolina debate that I had had with a source who is close with major donors to the Edwards campaign and who met with John in New York City the night before the Letterman appearance. That conversation centered on John McCain. At that time John Edwards believed that McCain was the likely GOP nominee with Mike Huckabee as the likely Vice Presidential candidate and that the general election would prove tough though winnable for the Democratic Party. John Edwards also made some not too favorable comments as to the fitness of McCain as commander-in-chief.

This morning former New Jersey Senator and 2000 Democratic Presidential contender Bill Bradley also made public comments that it appears that McCain and Huckabee will be the GOP ticket adding that they will be hard to beat. The GOP race long believed by most seasoned political commentators to possibly drag on for months and perhaps even end up in a brokered convention suddenly seems on the verge of being decided. The GOP is coalescing around McCain and Huckabee as evidenced by the speeches after the Florida primary. McCain praised everyone but Romney while Huckabee is staying in the race to siphon off conservative voters from Romney thus allowing McCain to squeak through.

Here it is important to note a distinction between the rules of the game between the GOP and the Democratic Party. The GOP awards some of its delegates in contests that are first past the post winner take all. John McCain won all the delegates in Florida. California is winner take all by Congressional District. These rules will help McCain build an insurmountable lead over Romney. The Democrats award delegates on a proportional basis and that hinders in determining a winner when both candidates have sizeable support.

It is unlikely that next Tuesday will result in a clear-cut front runner for the Democratic Party. Indeed the race may drag on until late March as both Clinton and Obama will accrue delegates. As the race drags on so increases the likelihood that both Clinton and Obama may bloody each to the point that whoever survives might be damaged permanently providing easy fodder for the GOP in the general election in the Fall.

Florida was indeed the catalyst but it was not John Edwards’ results that drove his decision to suspend his campaign but rather McCain’s. By winning Florida and getting Rudy Guiliani’s endorsement and now California Governor Arnold Scharwzenegger’s endorsement as well (who sat next to Nancy Reagan I might add as an additional signal as to what Ronald Reagan might have thought), McCain is on the way to wrapping the nomination within the month. As long as Edwards remained active in the race, the risk increased that the Democratic side would not be able to pick a candidate quickly. The decision is based on the hopes that the Democratic Party can settle on a nominee quickly and without bloodshed.

Whatever your personal (and mine) thoughts on Clinton or Obama, it is imperative that the race be fought on the issues and not get sidetracked with personal attacks coming from both sides. Leaders in the Democratic Party sound increasingly alarmed that the longer this contest drags on the greater the risk of losing what has been long perceived an easy election to win.



Whatever your personal (and mine) thoughts on Clinton or Obama, it is imperative that the race be fought on the issues and not get sidetracked with personal attacks coming from both sides

I agree. And that's why so many people were so upset with your first post here.. ;)

I think McCain/Huck is easily beatable with the right combo. Obama/Bloomberg perhaps?

Siderbar: Is anyone else seeing the McCain for President ad on the right advert column?

Sorry, I forgot to add:

Mr. Lemos,

Do you think Edwards comes out of this race with a higher or lower "stock" rating than before?

To JoAnn,

Believe me I am upset with myself as well. There is a need to come together quickly. I am voting for Edwards on Tuesday for personal reasons. I've lived in California and since our primary was always until in June, I have never voted for my first choice and I'm in my forties. I'd like to do that once in my life.

After that, I will support the nominee of my party.

Charles Lemos San Francisco, CA

How uplifting Charles.

To Brett:

Higher. The reason is that he has affected the message of both candidate. I also read a few blogs this am where people who taught him a "phony" are changing their tune.

What do you think?

Also I will be attending a lunch at the Commonwealth Club tomorrow for Mike Huckabee, if anyone can think of good questions to ask, I will submit them. Questions are usually drawn at random so you never know. I'm going to ask one on his separation of Church and State views. I'm also going to hear Mike Gravel next Monday in case that's of any interest. That is free and open to the public if you live in San Francisco.

Charles Lemos San Francisco

Once again, it is just mind-boggling to me that Huckabee is taken seriously by anyone as a potential President. His choice as VP would be an amazingly cynical one by a "straight-talker" like McCain. Though, unfortunately, apparently a politically advantageous one in shoring up his chances with evangelicals.

Obama/Bloomberg? What are you smoking Brett - whatever it is stay away from it. Bloomberg is no progressive. He may have quit the GOP but that doesn't mean he's a progressive. I'd like to see it be Obama/Edwards and why not - Edwards would make an excellent VP and help keep Obama focussed on domestic needs.

A war-mongering president with a theocratic vice president: How could they lose?

Whatever your personal (and mine) thoughts on Clinton or Obama, it is imperative that the race be fought on the issues and not get sidetracked with personal attacks coming from both sides.

Does that mean you're retracting your personal attacks against Obama?

"A war-mongering president with a theocratic vice president: How could they lose?"

Yah, MaCain wraps himself in the flag and Huckabee caries the cross. Thats how Fascism is supposed to come to America...

(Actually I think MaCain isn't a bad guy he dosen't really wave the flag as bad as most of GOP and I don't like his war stance, but he wouldn't be a terrible President)

To The Magnolia Electric Co.

It is not them. It is us. If we offer the carcass of a dead beaten to a bloody pulp horse then they stand a chance. If all the airwaves are reporting for a month or more after McCain clinches is an Obama-Clinton slug fest, who wins by that?

John Edwards "suspended" his campaign to move the process quicker. Conventional wisdom was the GOP was headed towards a brokered convention but that's not the case anymore. It is us.

The attacks have to stop. I've learned my lesson but others haven't. Encourage others to adopt a more issue-oriented race and consider who you think best matches up against McCain-Huckabee.

I know that the Clintons seem to be shifting tactics. Bill is under wraps. When was the last time we heard from him? Let's hope that lasts. Let's also hope tonight's debate isn't a bitter tit for tat.

Ask yourself this: do you think Clinton and Obama are on friendly terms or not?

It's time to let bygones be bygones and pick one quick.

Charles Lemos

To B. Dewhirst:

I am listening to what John Edwards is saying and the message I am reading is that the Party needs to come together. I have reservations about both Clinton and Obama and while I have more reservations about Obama, if the Party nominates him I will work for his election. I will be as impartial as I can be for the remainder of the primaries.

Please also realize that my earlier post was more a criticism of his supporters than necessarily of Obama himself. I know that I didn't make that distinction clear enough. But I hope you realize that as long as both Clinton and Obama are leveling direct personal attacks, they are both losing credibility in the eyes of as yet undecided voters.

I might also note that this is Obama's first competitive race (Alan Keyes is not competition), so he does have a learning curve running against the Clintons who are masters at it. But let's also hold the Clintons accountable for running an above board campaign. It is our responsibility to reign them in before they kill each other. After all the goal is to elect one of them and "blaze history" as John said.

Perhaps a bit over stated but I think I am right about the motives behind Edwards' decision. If you disagree, I am happy to hear why.

Charles Lemos

He did win a very contentious primary against a self funding candidate (Blair Hull).

Relations about Hull's divorce took him out late in the race. Before that there was plenty of campaign going on.

Revelations that Ryan had pressured his wife to have group sex took him out in the general as well.

So he actually did start that race with very serious contention.

You called Obama supporters some sort of cult following, now you are justifying your most recent post as just something passed on down from the Edwards campaign? How ironic.

Your comments were offensive. You should stop dancing around this and just apologize or retract your comments.

What ever happened to the theory that Edwards was looking to capture around 200 delegates leaving Clinton and Obama unable to establish a majority without getting his support? I thought that plan sounded like an interesting way for John to more strongly influence the policies of the eventual winner.

Super J.

To Super J.

That was the theory (to amass enough delegates so as to prevent either one from winning outright)but he didn't plan on McCain wrapping it up so quickly nor as he noted on Letterman that "we can't stand each other." That wasn't a reference to his relationship with them but the relationship between Obama and Clinton.

In an odd way, you can blame Romney for leading up to Edwards' decision. The other GOP candidates hate Romney so much that they effectively (partly also due to geography and cash) that they tagged team. I'll get him here and you get him there. I don't know if McCain and Huckabee have a verbal agreement but it sure appears that way. And the rules on the GOP side favor a quicker process since it is winner take all in a few states, Florida for example and in California by District.

Charles Lemos



here's a question for Huckabee:

based on his reference to the Sixth Commandment in his Right to Life stance (Thou Shalt Not Kill), by the same token shouldn't he also criminalize adultery?

wow, that would cast a pall over things, eh?

I doubt that you'll get a chance to ask, but I sure wish I could see him squirm under this one. Are you taking a video camera?

"as he noted on Letterman that "we can't stand each other." That wasn't a reference to his relationship with them but the relationship between Obama and Clinton."

Pure conjecture on your part Charles, and untrue. Dislike was a three way street.

I offered a similar analysis on C&L yesterday although I doubt Mr Edwards motives are quite so altruistic. Where I must fundamentally disagree is the concept of fighting the election on the issues. I'm from Canuckistan and therefore not well versed on local American politics. I have nevertheless followed US politics intensely since reading Hunter Thompson's analysis (yet another Fear and Loathing..)as a teenager. The way I see it, in order to herd together an electoral majority out of the giant American collection of minorities one must take as few positions as possible. Every position one takes, no matter how sensible, is sure to alienate some group and cost votes. The most successful strategy is to talk in vague uplifting tones about "bringing America together" and other similar memes. Senator Obama has been successful precisely because he has so little baggage in the form of voting history, to weigh him down. By making persona the main selling point in the election the politicians remain flexible and can tailor the message as negative feedback makes necessary. This may seem cynical but I believe it to be true. No matter what any politician tells you only the most unelectable (Kucinich or Paul) really want to talk about issues.A voting record isn't an asset it's an Achilles heel.


On the dislike between the candidates, I think it is fair to say that the Obama and Clinton relationship is more complicated than ones between Edwards and those two. For example, after the South Carolina debate Clinton and Edwards met for 30 minutes in private. I am taking advantage of a commercial break during the debate to respond and I think tonight it is so far so good. The focus on the issues is quite refreshing and bodes well.



I think you're probably right about the rapid clarity of the GOP race forcing the Democrat's hand. I can't help but wonder if the omission of delegates in MI and FL didn't exacerbate the problem for the Dems. Allow the assumption that one or the other might have won both those races, then a top candidate would emerge safely and the others could persist to simply force policy nuance. I know it's all conjecture now, but I'm frustrated that John is out so soon and left wondering if the Dems haven't shot themselves in the foot (once again) with the delegate punishments they handed out.

Super J.


No doubt Obama and Clinton had a more contentious relationship, but there was clearly tension between all three. All three traded barbs. None are spitting acid, but all had their resentments. Edwards was not above it all.

Super J. You raise a great point. Florida is a natural Clinton territory given the demographics. Had there been some campaigning there, I don't think the results would have been much different. In Michigan, I'd like to think that Edwards might done really well (wishful thinking perhaps) but as I assess his situation I think three things did him in:

  1. A lack of relevant coverage in the media and outright dismissal by pundits as hypocrite or phony.

  2. Not winning Iowa.

  3. A level playing field in terms of cash.

But it is important to remember that those two states did break the rules by moving up their primaries without the consent of the DNC.

I think if the Democratic Party reviews any changes regarding the process, it might be the proportional awarding of delegates and perhaps move to a hybrid system one where the winner of a contest says half the delegates for winning and then the other half are divided proportionally. And the calendar needs work as well.





Vote for John Edwards on the 5th! Keep the dream alive!

why not simply set up a system of campaign reform which pools ALL campaign donations in one giant pot, for both dems and repubs, and then divide it evenly between the nominees? wouldn't that put financing on level ground and give the people a sense of real choice, since competing for cash would be less important and thus less likely to have "bought" politicians?

Doug Adler -

I didn't say I think Obama/Bloomberg is a good ticket. I only meant that I believe Obama will look outside the party for his VP if he wins the nomination.

Charles -

I too think Edwards left the race with his stock higher. Edwards has built up enough credibility that he can tackle his bread and butter issues - poverty, health care, etc. - with authority after the campaign ends to really make a difference.

Charles, Hang tough! Don't let a few people asking you to retract and apologize for your first blog distract you and everybody here who fight proudly for the unity that the Democrats need to win. It may be hard to stomach the vicious self-righteousness of a tiny minority of his supporters, but Obama is not them fortunately, and if he comes to win the nomination, yes, all democrats will vote for him (duh), because his victory would be wonderful for the US, and the world too.

As for Edwards Stock being higher and lower.

It will be higher in terms of issue work and public service.

In terms of campaigning, he has essentially ended his career. He did worse on his second run for president then on his first. He couldn't hit 20% in the state he was born. He campaign in Iowa for 6 years and eked out a distant second. He has never gotten traction in NH.

I doubt he willever be able to run for something again. Trail Lawyers aren't going to fund a third loss.

This is a good article.

Assuming McCain get's the Republican nomination, I think Obama is the Democratic candidate most likely to be able to beat McCain.

Purely on an image level there's a stark contrast between the two. Mcain looks old, Obama looks fresh. Obama is young, he's an eloquent speaker, he's seen as someone that can unite the country and change the world image of the United States. I think that combination wins in the general election. Clinton has a high negative, and a high :looking back" quotient.

jpaul wrote : "Charles, Hang tough! ....[Obama's] victory would be wonderful for the US, and the world too."

Did you even read his first post? I don't think he mentioned how wonderful an Obama presidency would be. In fact Charles said he was scared of an Obama presidency. He was so concerned! And the only way to save the democratic party is to tear down Obama!

This post is 180 degrees from what he was first spewing. Literally, I think his first post spewed, like a frothy mixture of Santorum. I'm just concerned about him, thats all, its not really a personal attack.

But thanks so much Charles, for teaching us all now that we all must just get along! And what coincidence that your horse is now out of the race....

"A lack of relevant coverage in the media and outright dismissal by pundits as hypocrite or phony."

This is silly. Edwards campaigned for 6 years in some of these states. Huckabe had much less and got much farther and Huckabee was dismissed until his polling numbers jumped in Iowa.

The only context he was dismissed as a Phoney was the Haircut episode.

And you have to admit that was significant blunder on edwards' part.


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