As the arguments against Edwards begin to mount online, I want to point out something that should be obvious to Obama supporters, but which I have rarely seen mentioned. By staying in the campaign, Edwards is helping Obama in most states, particularly those with large African-American populations. Consider, for example, that Clinton would instantaneously pull even with Obama in South Carolina if Edwards were to drop out:
Meanwhile, on the Dem side, the poll has Obama with a nine-point lead over Clinton, 40%-31%. Just asking: With Obama way out in front of Clinton with African-American voters (56%-25%), but trailing both Clinton and Edwards among whites (39%-28%-20%), is South Carolina at least one contest where Edwards still being in the race actually helps Obama? It sure looks like Clinton and Edwards are splitting the white vote…
Obama is dominating Clinton among African-Americans nationwide, and even stronger in states where campaigning has actually taken place. Edwards draws very little of the African-American vote from Obama, but is competitive for white southern votes. This means that in states like South Carolina (Jan 26th) and Georgia (Feb 5th), Obama's lead is largely dependent on Edwards staying in the campaign. In Alabama, which will take place on February 5th, Obama leads Clinton 36%-34%. However, that lead would be gone if the 9% of voters who support Edwards, most of whom are white, have to choose only between Clinton and Obama. While there are no recent polls out of other February 5th states, like Kansas and Missouri, given the strength of Edwards in those two states, I imagine the situation is very similar. Further, while Obama's winning or losing in Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee is not dependent on Edwards staying in the campaign, for exactly the same reason I cited in the previously mentioned states, Obama's delegate totals from these other states will probably be better with Edwards in the campaign than with Edwards out of the campaign. In every case, Edwards will take a larger bite out of Clinton's advantage among white voters than he will from Obama's advantage among African-American voters.
With Hillary Clinton nudging ahead in Nevada, right now Edwards dropping out would be absolutely devastating to the Obama campaign. If Clinton won Nevada, and Edwards dropped out, Illinois and Georgia might be the only two remaining states where Obama would have an advantage. Barring a spectacular Clinton collapse, the campaign would be all but over. Clinton's advantage would be insurmountable.
Obama's only chance in this campaign is if Edwards stays in the race through February 5th, and stays in the double-digits in just about every state through February 5th. If Obama can put together a string of victories from January 19th through February 5th, he might be able to compete with Clinton one on one. Right now, however, he can't do that. So, if you are an Obama supporter pissed at Edwards for staying in the campaign, or frustrated that Edwards has maintained large support online, remember this: if Edwards drops out, or sees his poll numbers collapse before February 5th, this campaign is over. If you don't believe me and all of hte states I have cited so far, just look at the difference between the two Nevada polls were Edwards is strong (Clinton and Obama are tied in those polls) and the two Nevada polls where Edwards is weak (Clinton leads a 7.5% lead in those two polls). Right now, unless he wins Nevada, Edwards is functionally acting as a spoiler to Clinton, and in favor of Obama. If he does well between now and February 5th, Obama might be strong enough to challenge Clinton one-on-one. However, he isn't strong enough yet, and he needs help from Edwards to get him to that point.