What would have happened if John Edwards stayed in?

It was pretty clear early on that John Edwards wasn’t exactly picking up speed in the Democratic primaries, but he certainly would have been able to argue himself a few reasons to stay in through Super Tuesday if he really wanted to, and if this year has set any standards, it’s that you don’t really need much to hold on to to stay in this race (before any Clinton-its swipe at this, I’m mostly referring to Huckabee).

So, what if Edwards were a bit more stubborn? Would he have drawn enough votes from either Hillary or Obama that we’d have a clear front runner? Would the race be over by now? Would he have faded into such irrelevance that his piece of the pie wouldn’t matter, and we’d be in a similar situation?

We have a clear front runner-- Obama. Do you mean would we have a clearer front runner? Hard to say. Edwards would be burning cash pretty fast if he stayed in, and I don’t know how long he could have lasted other than just saying he wanted to have his name on the ballot. If you don’t do any actual campaigning, then you’re going to drop below the radar. But it seems like Edward’s message was primarily economic, and those voters who are most concerned with the economic situation seem to be leaning towards Hillary, so my guess is he would have gotten more Hillary votes than Obama votes, to the extent he got any votes at all.

Obama might have maybe 10 fewer delegates. I love Edwards, but this just wasn’t meant to be. His presence in the race didn’t stop Obama in Iowa and South Carolina and wouldn’t have meant much more elsewhere.

It would force the party to re-run MI & FL in all likelihood. There is the hope from some who want this to be painless, that Obama can get close enough to the magic number, with super delegates, to make any any reasonable delegate split in FL or MI moot. This would hopefully make Clinton bow out before a costly re-vote had to be scheduled. That might not have been the case with Edwards in the race.

I think he would have probably hurt Clinton more in the long run because he seemed to be attacking her more, and would have had easy openings to attack her negative campaigning against Obama (assuming she would have done it anyway). In addition, Clinton’s big wins in places like Ohio would be better terrain for Edwards than Obama’s big wins in places like DC, SC, or MS. I think his presence, without an eventual endorsement would have just weakened the legitimacy of the eventual candidate.

What John and Bob said. As highly as I regard Edwards, I can’t see any way Edwards could have avoided a fast track to irrelevance. Hell, he was already on that track when he withdrew. He didn’t have the $$ to compete on and after Super Tuesday.

He really needed a win in Iowa to be able to compete with Hillary and Obama in NH and beyond. He finished second there, and didn’t even do that well anywhere else.

But he was able to force Hillary and Obama to adopt serious universal or near-universal health care plans and comprehensive climate plans, among other things. So he lost well, in a way that advanced the prospects of progress on the issues that matter.

Not bad for a guy who spent all of 2007 running third in the polls, and was all but excluded from media coverage, excepting haircut stories and whatnot.