THE BLOG

What Value Does the Edwards Endorsement Really Provide?

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

John Edwards, the former Senator from North Carolina, delivered what appeared to be a stinging blow to the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton Wednesday by finally publicly declaring his support for Sen. Barack Obama in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Ever since he unintentionally tipped his hat last week on MSNBC's Morning Joe program and indicated his preference for Illinois' junior Senator, it became clear that an official endorsement was imminent. But what exactly does this mean for Obama? Does having Edwards' support, now, really mean anything?

Over the past few months, the anticipated Edwards endorsement, along with those of other key party leaders such as Al Gore, have become the subject of great mystery among the political punditry. But historically, and especially this year, such endorsements have provided little or no value to the candidates receiving them. While everyone sits on he edge of their seats waiting for Gore's decision, few remember that Howard Dean's 2004 campaign sank nearly the moment Gore gave his thumbs up. And what about Obama's campaign this year? Semi-manic table-pounding by select members of the Kennedy clan--including Caroline and Uncle Teddy--failed to deliver the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Are we also forgetting that, as a vice presidential running mate, Edwards failed to deliver for Sen. John Kerry the state of North Carolina, where he was raised and served as a U.S. Senator from 1998-2004? And before he dropped out of this year's contest in late January, he ran third in his birth state, South Carolina, behind Clinton and Obama...a state he carried in his 2004 bid for the White House. So since 2004, he's become less popular in the all-important South? Is it fairly safe to say that all the hoopla surrounding the Edwards endorsement might be a tad overblown? That in Obama's quest to win over the white working class, the uber-rich trial attorney with the $400 haircuts might not be the answer?

To be sure, Edwards' 18 delegates is indeed a bounty, and Clinton and her supporters would certainly love to have gotten not only Edwards' endorsement, but more so these much-needed delegates as well. But, there's no guarantee these delegates will automatically cast their votes for Obama simply at Edwards' instruction. That decision is theirs, not his. So it remains to be seen just what value, ultimately, this endorsement will truly bring.

Clinton is waging a tough campaign and has vowed to fight till the end, whether that's June 3rd, the day of the last primary, or all the way to the Denver convention in August. But with each passing day, as more and more delegates and super-delegates tip Obama's way, it's going to take a miracle for Clinton to snag this nomination. But again, the jury is still out in terms of how much the simple math will ultimately play in the super D's decision-making. Let's give Hillary some credit, but not just for being a tough, resilient fighter. The truth is, her protracted battle against Obama, contrary to earlier concerns, has been great for the party. The Democratic campaign has dominated the news 24/7. The GOP's presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, is nowhere to be found.