John Edwards played for the spoiler this year. Let’s see how that worked out:
Even though he dropped out, and has a measly 26 delegates, he still managed to completely screw Obama in one state – California. Here’s what seems to matter as we evaluate the situation:
Will his 26 delegates matter? The race is ridiculously close, but the answer is still probably no, because of the super-delegates. There’s an outside shot that 26 delegates is enough to make some sort of difference, but I don’t see the party allowing things to stay that close.
Would people have voted for Obama if Edwards had endorsed him? Probably yes. Even though a vote for Edwards was kind of like a vote against the other two, I think that an endorsement would have persuaded his remaining followers to vote for second best. Edwards’ vote margin was enough to make Obama look bad in the state, but not enough to get Edwards any extra delegates or bargaining chips.
Could this have had anything to do with Hillary? Maybe, but only if she sees him as a palatable VP nominee. Against McCain she needs a strong foreign policy specialist who can battle for independent voters. Doesn’t exactly sound like Edwards at all.
So what, then, did John Edwards accomplish? Not much really. Besides hurting Obama, he didn’t gain leverage, probably didn’t help his VP chances, and most likely put an end to any presidential aspirations he might have had. He’s still young, but he’s spent his ammunition. The same campaign run 4 or 8 years from now, with a few years of work for an interesting foundation or cause, could have had much greater leverage, or at least a much less potent field to contend with.