The Edwards presidential bid may just be over. Just ask Edwards adviser Joe Trippi.
The Edwards campaign has decided to accept public matching funds in the primary — and also accept federal spending limits. This gives the campaign a cash infusion of up to $21 million that it must believe it needs to stay competitive for the nomination.
But should Edwards be fortunate enough to topple Hillary and Barrack, the decision also limits his total spending — through to the convention — to a mere $50 million. And there's the rub. Edwards is going to need every cent of that $50 million to defeat Clinton Inc. and Obama & Co. Meaning that he would then be a sitting duck for the GOP attack machine from the first days of Spring through August.
That's not just my argument. Listen to Edwards' own adviser, former Dean finance guru Joe Trippi. He told me earlier this year (prior to signing onto the Edwards campaign) that opting for the limits of public financing would leave any nominee "flat broke like Mike Dukakis — getting the living shit kicked out of him all summer long."
Today's news clearly masks a behind-the-scenes drama.
Trippi is all about raising absurd amounts of money from small-dollar donors. Clearly that hasn't happened yet for the Edwards campaign. But today's decision forecloses the possibility of it ever happening between now and August. Say Edwards catches fire in a month — an endorsement from Al Gore or a major stumble by/scandal for Hillary could do it — and the money starts pouring in. At some point, because of this decision, the campaign could actually have to turn away donors.
More absurdly, today's decision also forecloses the possibility that Edwards could self-finance part of his campaign. He's now limited to spending $50,000 of his multimillions.
Trippi must have lost this battle to fellow Edwards adviser David Bonoir, who today painted the decision in principled terms — as a rejection of the corrupting influence of establishment money — and then attempted to reassure the Edwards faithful that it is not hamstringing the would-be nominee.
We are prepared for this campaign to go the distance. We have a comprehensive campaign spending plan ... to ensure that we not only have enough money on hand to clinch the nomination but also have a reserve to take the fight to the Republican nominee in the spring.
How is that possible? Well, says Bonoir, it really means relying on the DNC to do Edwards' defending and dirty work:
Since the party can spend money independently of its Presidential nominee, a stronger Democratic Party will be in a position to meet the challenge of waging an effective campaign on behalf of John Edwards and every other Democratic candidate.