Breaking News: John Edwards Withdrawing From Presidential Race—His Supporters May Decide California Primary Election if Close3 min read

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A formal announcement will be made shortly by John Edwards that he is dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president. According to published accounts, he will not immediately announce his support for one of the other two candidates who this contest now boils down to: Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Edwards, pictured above, being greeted by California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres before giving a rip-roaring speech at the California Democratic convention in San Diego last April, won the hearts and minds of many delegates with a speech that impressed and resonated in the hall. He spoke forthrightly about poverty in the United States, a life time passion of his that he has committed himself to as an attorney. He also spoke strongly against the War in Iraq. At the time, I wrote:

“Presidential candidate John Edwards spoke to the California Democratic Convention in San Diego yesterday starting and ending with strong words about what is probably the single most important issues to our state’s primary voters–the war in Iraq. His 23 minutes speech was interrupted by applause on a number of occasions, especially when he talked about the war.”

He had the strong support of many of those who are active in the California Democratic Party, even as his poll numbers and fundraising lagged. Many of his supporters were dogged and continued to phone bank, walk precincts, and talk to their neighbors about his campaign.

Although he registered support from only 10% of likely voters surveyed in the last California Field Poll, taken between January 14 and 20 (a seeming eternity ago), those of his supporters who have not already cast ballots by mail could have a substantial impact on the California primary results in a tightening race.

According to Field:

“If Edwards, who is running a distant third with 10% of voter preferences, were to drop out of the race, more than twice as many of his supporters say they would prefer Obama (29%) than Clinton (11%). Another 12% would favor other candidates, while nearly half (48%) are undecided.”

Since then other Democratic candidates have dropped out of the race. If Edwards’ supporters break for Obama over Clinton this could give Obama the edge he needs to win California.

That process may have already started happening a couple of weeks ago when Sacramento area Senator Darrell Steinberg switched from Edwards to Obama and indicated the similarities between the candidates in an article on these pages: “Why I ‘m Supporting Barack Obama for President.” Another Sacramentan, long active in politics, just yesterday urged Edwards supporters to switch to Obama. An endorsement by Edwards of one candidate or the other could also have significant sway in the final days leading up to Super Tuesday.

The photo above is from Randy Bayne, Chair of the Democratic Party in Amado County, and a big Edwards supporter who has written regularly about the Edwards campaign on his site and who wrote an article for us earlier this month on his speeches for Edwards in the Sierra Foothills.

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