Edwards leaning toward endorsing Clinton? Or maybe Obama?

The political world is still waiting with bated breath to hear who, if anyone, John Edwards will endorse.

By Alex Koppelman
Published February 14, 2008 4:51PM (EST)

If there's one man whose endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate is as hotly anticipated as Al Gore's, it'd have to be John Edwards. The former North Carolina senator and vice-presidential candidate built up a small but significant base of support during his latest run for the presidency, and though it's debatable how much affect endorsements really have in a post-machine politics world, in a race this close Edwards' support could carry serious implications for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

The latest entry into the Edwards speculation field comes from ABC News, which headlines its article on the subject "Edwards Weighs Clinton Endorsement." But all is not as simple as that headline makes it sound; really, according to the article itself, it's more like Edwards is still very much undecided, if maybe possibly sort of leaning slightly toward Clinton. Kind of. "As he weighs a possible endorsement in the Democratic race, former Sen. John Edwards is as split as the party he once hoped to lead -- and is seriously considering supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, despite the sharp criticism he leveled at her on the campaign trail, according to former aides and advisers," reporters Rick Klein and Raelyn Johnson write. "Edwards appears deeply divided. Several former advisers likened his thought process to a heart-versus-head split -- with his heart favoring Sen. Barack Obama's strong message of change, and his head attracted to Clinton's tested nature and commitment to tough fights ... Several Edwards campaign insiders say the former senator began to sour on Obama toward the end of his own campaign, and ultimately left the race questioning whether Obama had the toughness needed to prevail in a presidential race ... Several people close to the former North Carolina senator say he may ultimately stay neutral in the race ... That may become a stronger possibility if Obama continues to build momentum toward the nomination: Edwards does not want to back a losing candidate, and neither does he want to join a bandwagon, aides and associates say."

Ultimately, this article leaves the distinct impression that Edwards could go either way, or no way at all. There's a little bit of additional circumstantial evidence out in the ether, however, for those interested in additional speculation.

ABC's reporting that Edwards soured on Obama and questioned his toughness would seem to be supported by comments by Time's Mark Halperin, who recently apologized after saying in a radio interview that Edwards "thinks Obama is kind of a pussy. He has real questions about Obama's toughness, his readiness for the office. He has real doubts about Obama, not just as a president, but as a general election candidate." (Halperin also said that Edwards does not like Clinton, and that "he's really skeptical of her ability to be the kind of president he wants.")

Also, the Politico's Ben Smith reports that Jonathan Prince, formerly Edwards' deputy campaign manager, visited Clinton's Virginia headquarters last week. That may mean little, however -- Prince says he was just there to have lunch with his friend Howard Wolfson, a top Clinton aide, and the two dined together even when they were campaigning against each other.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton John Edwards War Room