The exit of Edwards from the race is a clear boon to the Obama campaign.
The central dynamic of this race has always been Hillary and the two anti-Hillarys. With Edwards gone, Obama becomes the unalloyed repository of the ABC [Anyone But Clinton] vote.
Whether he can run with it or not, Obama finally has his shot to draw a clear distinction between himself and Clinton. Compete head-to-head. Win. Or go home.
The idea that it was somehow better for Obama to have Edwards drag this race into the convention and then have the two of them knock off Hillary with some kind of delegate coup never made much sense to me.
For what it’s worth, my own sense is that a majority of Edwards’ supporters will gravitate to the insurgent candidate. Near as I could tell, Edwards voters were largely white, rural conservative men and what I’ll call Elizabeth Edwards Progressives — a Netrootsy coalition of the party’s bleeding hearts. Among those lunch-bucket dudes, Clinton’s NAFTA support is a real drag. The EEPs, meanwhile, are looking for the most liberal pumpkin in the patch. On the war, at least, that’s Obama.
Edwards has also done Obama a favor by the timing of his exit. Had he stayed in the race any later, today’s news cycle would have been dominated by a discussion of Clinton’s kinda-victory in Florida yesterday, as well as the cooked-up distraction of “the snub.”
Instead the media are in reset mode. Conjecturing where Edwards’ supporters find a home. Theorizing about a potential endorsement. Projecting matchups of Hillary and Obama against McCain.
Knowing the makeup of the Edwards team, I can’t fathom a Clinton endorsement. Who at a table of Elizabeth Edwards, Mudcat Saunders, Joe Trippi, and David Bonoir is going to raise their hand for Clinton? Having interviewed Elizabeth, Edwards’ most influential adviser, in person, I can tell you that her enmity for Clinton is visceral. Trippi is an Obama/movement guy by gut inclination. Mudcat’s on the record as being against Clinton for her NAFTA sins. And I can only imagine a hardscrabble Michigan guy like Bonoir is in the same boat.
The far more likely scenario is that Edwards either continues to hold his tongue, or he times his endorsement of Obama to help give him another boost closer to the fifth.
Either way, this is a good day for the Obama campaign.