John Edwards gave his first public speech today since withdrawing from the Democratic race a couple of months ago. He had lots of nice things to say about both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but dropped no hints about when or if his personal endorsement was coming. “I have a very high opinion of both of them. We would be blessed as a nation to have either one of them as president,” Edwards said.
He continued on the same path of complimenting both the remaining Democratic candidates. “We are blessed, first, to have an extraordinarily talented African American who could be the next president of the United States,” Edwards said. “There’s no way to contest the fact that he’s inspired this country. And Senator Clinton, who has served America for so long and so well, and has shown so much strength and leadership, has really forged an extraordinarily historic campaign as a woman for the nomination and for the presidency.” When asked by reporters about an endorsement, he said, “When I have something to say, I’ll let you know.”
I think there are a few different possible explanations for why John Edwards has not given his endorsement yet. First, I think Edwards had a better feel than most about how tight this race could get. He knows that it is unlikely that neither candidate will win the nomination on their own. In this situation, he can play kingmaker. His support thrown in at the right time could tip the balance towards one candidate over the other. Another possibility is that Edwards is torn between these two candidates, just as the Democratic Party is. This endorsement could end up being the biggest decision of Edwards’s political career, and he doesn’t want to choose the wrong team.
Finally, there is the possibility that Edwards is waiting for the winner to emerge, because he is looking for a job in the next administration. Many of his supporters and donors have already drifted towards Obama, so his reason for waiting has to be something more political than personal.
Edwards has millions of supporters, so his endorsement, when it comes, will carry a lot of weight. It is my guess that Edwards will end up endorsing Obama. There is an ideological match between the two that is hard to ignore. Edwards thought he would be a big player in the 2008 race, but I don’t think that this is the role he had in mind for himself.