Edwards, Giuliani out: Who gains? What they said
The withdrawals of Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday bring considerable clarity, and some new uncertainty...
The Philadelphia Inquirer
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The withdrawals of Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday bring considerable clarity, and some new uncertainty, to the race for the presidency.
Both parties now have two-candidate contests for the nominations, literally so on the Democratic side — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama will have the stage to themselves when they debate tonight — and effectively so for the Republicans.
That's the clarity. The uncertainty has to do with who benefits from the narrowing of the fields heading into Super Tuesday.
The immediate effect for Democrats is that Obama becomes the sole alternative to Clinton, whom some voters see as a symbol of the Washington political establishment by virtue of the two terms her husband served as president.
"It does make it a one-on-one contest, which I think is advantageous to the challenger because the anti-Clinton vote won't be divided anymore," said Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. "Obama has a clear shot now. He doesn't have to worry about Edwards dogging him."
Still, Clinton has a traditional Democratic appeal similar to that of Edwards. And, by choosing to suspend his campaign rather than dropping out, Edwards did not release the 56 delegates he has accumulated. He plans to meet individually with Clinton and Obama in private before deciding whether to make an endorsement or remain neutral.
Even if most voters supporting Edwards decided to back Obama, "it's hard to justify that it will be a major catalyst," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
It could well be that Obama will benefit along the East and West coasts, Clinton in the Southern and border states. All those regions will be part of the voting next week.
On the Republican side, Giuliani's endorsement of John McCain figures to help the Arizona senator. But it might be hard to tell how much, because McCain already was on a roll and Giuliani had been bleeding support for weeks.
Whatever influence Giuliani retains should help McCain in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, all of which vote Tuesday. In delivering his endorsement Wednesday, Giuliani said he would be happy to campaign for the Arizona senator in those three states or anywhere else.
Scala suggested Giuliani's help probably isn't necessary. "Giuliani's endorsement of McCain only reinforces what voters were likely to do on their own anyway," he said.
Then again, there's a chance that the sense of semi-inevitability around McCain's candidacy for the GOP nomination will prod social and economic conservatives into rallying behind Mitt Romney before it's too late. Romney's aides note that McCain has yet to receive more than 37 percent of the vote in any of the contests.
For Democrats, analysts Wednesday were arguing that Clinton would receive a modest boost from Edwards' decision. Others were making equally plausible arguments that Obama would benefit.
The evidence, such as it is, is far from conclusive.
In Iowa and New Hampshire, Edwards' supporters looked a lot like Obama supporters, according to exit polls, in terms of income, education and other demographic indicators.
There also is an obvious philosophical affinity between the Obama and Edwards camps. Many partisans of both candidates want dramatic change in Washington, D.C., and consider Clinton to be too much a representative of the status quo.
By that reasoning, Edwards' departure could help Obama. At the very least, Democrats tired of the Clintons now have only one place to go.
Speaking in Denver on Wednesday, Obama sought to claim the Edwards mantle and put the Illinois senator's imprint on it. Obama said he, too, believed that Edwards' "two Americas," one rich, one poor, could be transformed into "one America."
But there is evidence pointing in the other direction.
In South Carolina and Florida, Southern states with large blocs of African Americans, Edwards' voters have looked more like Clinton voters, mostly white, mostly older and mostly moderate.
So in the Southern states voting Tuesday, and perhaps in other places, Clinton might pick up what would have been Edwards' votes, even though Edwards has been more critical of Clinton than of Obama during the campaign.
It has been said often that the bulk of support for Edwards, who had endorsements from a number of labor unions and who spoke out for struggling wage-earners, has come from lower-income, blue-collar Democrats.
There is, however, no evidence of that in exit polling, the most reliable source of information on such matters.
That said, Edwards and Clinton, more than Obama, have stressed traditional, bread-and-butter Democratic issues. And Edwards and Clinton, more than Obama, have done well in exit polls among voters who want a candidate who "cares about people."
In saluting Edwards on Wednesday, the New York senator highlighted that common characteristic, citing his and her "deep concern for the daily lives of the American people."
On the Republican side, it's likely that some of those who supported Giuliani will not follow him to McCain.
Despite his moderate views on social issues, Giuliani ran a conservative campaign. His efforts drew praise from the same conservative radio talk-show hosts who have been blasting McCain (as well as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee) and saying McCain's nomination would ruin the Republican Party.
Romney hopes Giuliani's withdrawal will clarify the decision-making process for conservatives.
"The options are me or John McCain, and that will bring a lot of conservatives together," Romney said on Fox News Channel on Wednesday, adding that he thought "there's a ceiling as to how many votes Sen. McCain will get."
Information from Gannett News Service is included in this report.
|How they fared|
|How former Sen. John Edwards and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani finished in early primaries and caucuses:|
|* Edwards and Barack Obama removed their names from Michigan's ballot after the state was penalized for scheduling its primary before Feb. 5 without party permission.|
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