What's next for Edwards?

The former candidate's admission of an affair puts his political future, and a potential speaking slot at this year's convention, in jeopardy.

Published August 8, 2008 7:55PM (EDT)

John Edwards' admission that he did in fact have an affair with Rielle Hunter comes at a touchy time for Edwards, for Barack Obama and for Democrats generally.

The Democratic convention kicks off in just over two weeks, and someone like Edwards, who was a serious candidate for the presidential nomination this year, would typically get to make a speech during prime time. For obvious reasons, that could now prove to be a serious distraction, exactly the kind of thing Obama's campaign will be working very hard to avoid. Earlier this week, when the question was just when and if Edwards would publicly address the reports about his affair with Hunter, Don Fowler, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the Charlotte Observer, "If there is not an explanation that’s satisfactory, acceptable and meets high moral standards, the answer is 'no,' he would not be a prime candidate to make a major address to the convention."

Thus far, there's little word on what will happen. When contacted by Salon, the Obama campaign seemed to be trying hard not to answer questions, and other reporters have apparently been hitting a similar wall when contacting Obama spokespeople.

However, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports, "According to people close to the Edwardses, Elizabeth Edwards has secured a primetime speaking role at the Democratic National Convention; John Edwards, as of this point, does not, and people close to him think he will beg off and not attend the convention so as not to distract Obama." Politico's Ben Smith has a different story; he reports, "Edwards had told associates he had been promised a prime-time speaking role at the Democratic National Convention later this month."

There's also the question of Edwards' political future beyond the convention. Obviously, some politicians have successfully bounced back from revelations like this, but the circumstances in this case will likely make such a comeback difficult for Edwards. His wife's health obviously poses a problem in that regard, and the fact that he lied about the affair, leading some of his supporters to jump to his defense, may make people less likely to stand with him in the future.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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