“The American voters have made their choice, and so have I. There is one man who knows that this is a time for bold leadership… knows in his heart there is a way to create one America.”
This evening in Grand Rapids, Michigan, John Edwards has endorsed Barack Obama. On the heels of today’s National Abortion Rights League (NARAL) endorsement, the Edwards endorsement makes this a very big day for Obama. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton won the West Virginia primary, a contest in which although she won the vast majority of white voters, Edwards, no longer a candidate, came away with seven percent of the vote.
In a rousing, impassioned speech, Edwards had kind words for Hillary Clinton, whose name was met with boos. He extolled Clinton’s health care proposals and her principles. “It is hard to get out there every day when the odds turn against you,” he said of Clinton’s drive and character.
“We must come together as Democrats. Stand up for the future of America. We are a stronger party because of Hillary Clinton. Now, what brought all of us here is the profound belief that we can change this country. When we can make two Americas one America.” He discussed the division between the walled world of Washington and all of us who stand outside — the empowered and the powerless. His tale of two Americas resonates in the working class state of Michigan. “Our job is to tear that wall down and give America back to the people. In health care, in education, the world sees America not as the shining light," he said, but as the country that condones torture. “We can change this,” the way we are viewed in the world.
"This will not be easy," he said. "But this election is about taking down the walls that divides us; to see what is possible. Barack Obama knows that to his core.”
“One America," said Edwards, "when we finally end the moral shame of 37 million who wake up in poverty. Our America does not allow our veterans to come home from tours of duty in Iraq only to live in terrible poverty, sleeping on grates.”
Edwards, with his populist, issues-oriented campaign aimed at representing and enfranchising the “little guy,” may add weight to this area for Obama, who has had problems with this slice of the American electorate.
Although most voters really do not pay much attention to endorsements, and do not tend to alter their choices based on them, if he goes on the stump with Obama, pushing the issues and themes that were near and dear to him while in the race, he could energize the Obama campaign, not only during the primary but during the general election. Edwards’ campaign style is passionate and energetic and, especially in places like the upcoming primary state of Kentucky, could add to Obama’s “inevitability” factor.
And although Obama edges towards the nomination, questions remain about his ability to capture white working class voters. The perception is that Clinton is stronger with this group, and the West Virginia results would seem to confirm that. However, a Quinnipiac University poll says both Clinton and Obama lose this voting demographic to McCain. What would an energized, campaigning son of a mill worker do to change the narrative? Will we see more endorsements fall into line? Will the steelworkers union now come in for Obama, for example?
For the cynical among us, the timing at 6:30 p.m. might have been calculated to blow the “Clinton wins West Virginia” story off the top of the evening news. If so, it’s pretty brilliant.
Obama said his intent was to give Michigan, where he did not campaign in the primary and whose delegation has not been seated, "something special. I decided I was going to bring out one of the greatest leaders in the Democratic party… John Edwards.”
Edwards has approximately 19 delegates pledged to him. Obama’s magic number is 139. Edwards spoke to Clinton first, breaking the news to her; Elizabeth Edwards did not accompany him, and is not part of the endorsement, according to some sources.