Now that Edwards has left the campaign, discussion of Edwards over the next couple of days will invariably be dominated by who he will endorse. However, it is worth keeping in mind that both Clinton and Obama already endorsed Edwards:
But no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the fact remains that the Edwards campaign has set the domestic policy agenda for the entire field. He was the first with a bold universal healthcare plan, the first with an ambitious climate change proposal that called for cap-and-trade, and the leader on reforming predatory lending practices and raising the minimum wage to a level where it regains its lost purchasing power. Edwards's rhetoric has started to bleed into his rivals' speeches as well. "Too many have been invisible for too long," Clinton said in her victory speech Tuesday night. "Well, you are not invisible to me. The oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the predatory student loan companies have had seven years of a President who stands up for them. It's time we had a President who stands up for all of you."
The counterfactual of what this primary would have looked like without John Edwards creating a constant threat from the Left is a depressing one. Much more so than Obama, it's been Edwards who forced a new style of politics, untethered by the fear and timidity of the 90s, adamant that liberalism was an electoral boon and economic justice a popular sentiment. Knowing they had to defend against his challenge, both Hillary and Obama edged closer to his appeal. This left the Edwards campaign without much substance on which to distinguish itself, but it left the Democrats in a much stronger position overall, and forced them to argue for, and commit to, a much broader and more inspiring agenda than we otherwise might have seen.
Top Edwards adviser Joe Trippi just confirmed to me by phone that the Hillary and Obama campaigns are already working overtime to woo Edwards to their sides -- even before his official dropout speech.
"They're banging down the doors," Trippi told me.(…)
"Look, the guy led on every single issue out there, whether it was poverty, the economy, global warming, or universal health care," Trippi said. "He moved the progressive agenda much further than any other candidate -- so much so that both Clinton and Obama adopted a lot of his language and agenda. Which is a great thing to have done."
Edwards was also the leader on telecom policy, coming out with his open media plan before Obama. He also took the lead in dumping Fox News (which both Obama and Clinton followed), and on opposing the Iraq supplemental back in May (which both Obama and Clinton followed). Just as Richardson led on residual forces, and just as Dodd led on FISA and global warming, on a whole range of issues and rhetoric, Edwards consistently pushed the field to the left during this campaign. It is indeed depressing to think about what the Clinton vs. Obama contest would have been like without him.
So, while both Clinton are actively courting his endorsement now, it should be noted that both Obama and Clinton endorsed John Edwards a long time ago. It is probably small comfort on a day like today, but John Edwards and his supporters should take heart for what they accomplished in this campaign. More than any other candidate, John Edwards made the rest of the field more progressive. Thank you Senator Edwards, an I wish you all the best.