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 Though the media is reporting that Edwards has withdrawn from the race that is not accurate.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.