Joe Trippi, John Edwards’ campaign manager, now says he regrets not telling Edwards to stay in the race:
"I didn’t tell him what I should have told him: That I had this feeling that if he stayed in the race he would win 300 or so delegates by Super Tuesday and have maybe a one-in-five chance of forcing a brokered convention. That there was a path ahead that would be extremely painful, but could very well put him and his causes at the top of the Democratic agenda. And that in politics anything can happen -- even the possibility that in an open convention with multiple ballots an embattled and exhausted party would turn to him as their nominee. I should have closed my eyes to the pain I saw around me on the campaign bus, including my own. I should have told him emphatically that he should stay in. My regret that I did not do so -- that I let John Edwards down -- grows with every day that the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continues."
It's true: If he were still in the race, he'd have done very well among the working class white guys. But consider this: As was happening early on, he and Hillary would have split that vote, and Obama would have come in first in about every primary. Coming in first (as McCain showed us), more than actually getting a majority, is the key to momentum. And so the effectual truth of E. staying in the race would have been to have forced H. out of the race by now.
But now that we have had this strange rollercoaster ride of a primary season, is it more or less likely that this sort of thing will carry over into the next one? I'm thinking it's more likely. After the Bork hearings, spectacle inquiries into the opinions and character of judges became default in judicial nominee hearings. There are variations on the theme--some evoking more controversy than others, and some being so vanilla as not to inspire much of any digging--but it's always about the witch hunt now even when there's no witch to hunt. Will primaries now bring with them even more of a circus/horserace atmosphere than they did before the great race of 2008? Will candidates remember these words of Trippi and the example of HRC and be inclined always to stay in till the bitter end? I don't have a strong opinion about whether that would be a good or a bad development. It could be a bit of both. But I think it's a real question.
"My regret ... grows with every day ..." Well, boo hoo.