Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Power Through Delegates May Be Edwards Strategy"

NY Times:
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — With the Democratic nominating contest building to Feb. 5, the candidates have been focusing on the crucial game of accumulating delegates, a task that has become a possible raison d’ĂȘtre for John Edwards.
After finishing third in three of the four primary contests so far — except in Iowa, where he beat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for second place by less than one percentage point — Mr. Edwards has shown no sign of quitting, and his advisers have insisted that he still hopes to capture the nomination.

But they have also floated other rationales for a continued Edwards candidacy, suggesting that his delegates could be used to promote his platform or to help him act as a power broker at the Democratic convention.

“We’re still hoping that John is the nominee,” said David Bonior, the national campaign manager. “But with a chunk of delegates, you can leverage what you’ve been fighting for and standing for. You can raise these issues to where they should be on the Democratic agenda. We’re running for those two reasons: to get the nomination and to have his voice heard on his issues.”

Mr. Edwards has accumulated some delegates, giving him a seat at the table — or at least in debates — with Mrs. Clinton and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. He has often steered the conversation on policy, and was the first candidate to outline a universal health care plan and an economic stimulus proposal.

Yet his chance to win the nomination appears slim. After months of exposure — and in his second bid for the nomination — national polls still have him around 14 percent.

He did not even win in South Carolina, where he was born. And Mr. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, has received no endorsements from major newspapers or senators.

In 2004, Mr. Edwards dropped out of the presidential race after losing every state on a multiprimary day to Senator John Kerry — and that year he had won South Carolina.

But this year, the crowded field and the splintered results have given Mr. Edwards the chance to influence the race. As he did in South Carolina, Mr. Edwards may divide the white vote with Mrs. Clinton in states like Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, boosting Mr. Obama’s chances. Elsewhere, Mr. Edwards could attract some of the so-called change voters, hurting Mr. Obama.

There are signs that Mrs. Clinton, for one, is unnerved by Mr. Edwards’s continued presence in the race. Last week in South Carolina, her campaign unleashed a wave of automated telephone calls attacking Mr. Edwards’s voting record in the Senate and his work as a consultant for a hedge fund in 2005 and 2006.

There could be a significant payoff for his staying in the race. He could pledge his delegates at any point, including at a brokered Democratic convention in August if neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama captured 50 percent, or 2,025, of the delegates, the number needed to take the nomination.

“It’s obvious what he has in mind — if you can’t be the king, then be the king or queen maker,” said Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “He’s thinking perhaps Obama and Clinton will have a close split of delegates once the primaries are over, and his 300 or 400 delegates will make the difference. This is his one chance to have a real influence.”

Mr. Edwards is keeping up a relentless schedule, this week in Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee, all states that will vote on Feb. 5, and he is running television advertisements in 10 states.

Money is still not a problem, his aides insisted. Though Mr. Edwards has raised significantly less than Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama has raised, his campaign has been on a budget of $1.2 million a month and has enough to go through the primaries. He has raised more than $3 million this month, in part because of liberal bloggers, who recently organized a one-day fund-raiser that brought in more than $300,000.

No comments: