John Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, after finishing a distant third in Florida and his native South Carolina. Edwards asked Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to talk more about his central campaign theme, poverty, as the nomination fight continues. Edwards didn't immediately endorse either of his former rivals—the first woman and the first African American with a real shot at the nomination—but said he wanted to step aside "so that history can blaze its path." (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
Edwards simply couldn’t overcome Clinton’s “star power” and Obama’s “electrifying” way with a crowd, said Naftali Bendavid in Tribune’s The Swamp blog (via the Baltimore Sun). Edwards can still have an impact by endorsing Clinton or Obama. “What is certain is that, in a very close Clinton-Obama fight, both campaigns now have to refocus their strategies to win over Edwards’ supporters,” possibly by “emphasizing poverty issues” that drove Edwards’ campaign.
Edwards has already left his mark, said Jay Newton-Small in Time.com. “His populist rhetoric forced his rivals to compete for union support, and he was the first out of the gate with detailed plans for universal healthcare and education, putting pressure on the field to match him.” He used his skills as a former trial lawyer to steal the show in the debates, challenging the others to “refuse money from lobbyists” and push for a speedier withdrawal from Iraq. “What his exit will mean at the polls is less clear.”
Is it? said Ed Morrissey in his Captain’s Quarters blog. “Edwards has until now split the Hillary opposition with Barack Obama,” who now has it all to himself. The Super Tuesday contests on Feb. 5 will give the “anti-Hillary” crowd its first chance to “coalesce” behind a single candidate, so this could be “the tipping point” for the Clintons, who were already on the defensive thanks to the backlash against Bill Clinton’s “nasty and mean-spirited” recent campaigning.
It makes sense to assume Edwards voters will gravitate to the other “anti-Clinton,” said Dana Goldstein in The American Prospect online. But polls suggest that’s far from a sure thing. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll last week gave Clinton a slight edge over Obama among Edwards supporters. Clinton talks about the economy more than Obama does, and that could make it easier for her to “assume Edwards’ mantle as the economic populist in the race.”