Edwards's Dilemma

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The Edwards camp has obviously been eager to talk about how money is corrupting politics. The campaign is starting to make that point in a kind of meta way, too. Edwards has now had two debates in a row where he was by most accounts the winner, and where he overshadowed Obama in pressing the case against Hillary. And yet, the day after the pundits heap praise on his performance, they'll likely revert to discussing him (at least implicitly) as a quasi-marginal candidate. What's more, it's hard to fault them for it. With the spending caps he now faces in Iowa and New Hampshire (having decided to accept public financing), and the overall cap he faces in the primaries, it's hard to see how Edwards will stay afloat between March and the convention (the official end of the primaries) if he becomes the nominee. And if it's hard to see how he stays afloat as the nominee, it's hard to see him getting the nomination in the first place.

I've heard Edwards strategist Joe Trippi make the case that Edwards, were he to wrap up the nomination in March, could ask the DNC to formally declare him the nominee at that point, which would allow him to start spending money for the general election. But I'm not sure how feasible that is legally or logistically. And, even if it were, it seems like it would be tough to overcome the skepticism of donors and electability-minded voters.  

All of which is a long-winded way of asking: Is it possible that Edwards will end up helping Clinton, by overshadowing Obama but not being able to close the deal himself?

Update: I'm a step off today. I wrote that, "With the spending caps he now faces in Iowa and New Hampshire (having decided to accept public financing), and the overall cap he faces in the primaries, it's hard to see how Edwards will stay afloat between March and the convention (the official end of the primaries) if he becomes the nominee." The latter is true, but the spending caps in Iowa and New Hampshire obviously only matter in the primaries, not the general. I'd started down a thought about how the public financing decision makes things tricky for Edwards in the primary and the general, but for some reason didn't complete the first part...  

--Noam Scheiber

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