Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Impact of Edwards dropping out

With the revelation in the last week that Elizabeth Edwards thought her husband should have stopped running for President after she found out about his relationship with Rielle Hunter, some folks have wondered if Hillary Clinton might have been launched to the nomination if she had been in more of a head to head contest with Barack Obama.

I think this line of thought is a bit of a simplification based on identity politics, assuming that Clinton and Edwards were splitting some sort of monolithic white vote and that Clinton would have thus picked up Edwards' voters if he hadn't been in the race. I think the reality is that Edwards' message was closer to Obama than Clinton and that would have superseded or at least equaled movement based primarily on race.

Mark Blumenthal has debunked this theory in a more wide ranging analysis, but I thought the poll we conducted in North Carolina immediately after Edwards' withdrawal gave a pretty clear answer to where his former supporters were going: 41% to Obama and 41% to Clinton. Small changes certainly could have made a small difference in the closely contested early primary contests, but on the whole I think Edwards not running would have pretty much been a wash.

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