The Note: Edwards under a microscope


There's been nice symmetry to the presidential race so far this year -- a Republican Big Three and a Democratic Big Three, creeping Tennessee shadows on both sides, and now a freshly independent certain mayor who can watch everyone tear each other up while prepping a check with 12 zeroes.

But what does it take to keep a spot in the top tier? Specifically, can former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., keep his perch as the viable alternative to the Democrats' formidable Top Two? Maybe Emma Claire was pointing us toward an answer yesterday. . . .

With roughly a week left in the fund-raising quarter, the buzz has rightly been on the stakes for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. But Edwards -- running third in the national polls, and slightly better in some early state polls -- has just as much to lose (or win) in the coming weeks. Perhaps no candidate on either side has done more to shape the campaign's early contours as Edwards -- particularly on Iraq -- yet that's not enough by itself.

The Edwards camp divulged in an e-mailed fund-raising appeal yesterday that they've raised just $6 million so far this quarter. Aides say that's two-thirds of the way to their goal, meaning they're on track to bring in roughly $9 million this quarter -- well less than their $14 million in quarter one, and far, far behind the fresh sums being raised by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports.

As Edwards revives and updates his "two Americas" campaign message, he faces new questions today about the anti-poverty work he conducted between his presidential bids. His not-for-profit "Center for Promise and Opportunity" raised $1.3 million in 2005, and "the main beneficiary of the center's fund-raising was Mr. Edwards himself," The New York Times' Leslie Wayne reports. It paid for his travel to early-primary states before he was a candidate, and kept key aides in his orbit as he prepared for his 2008 run, Wayne writes. "The organization became a big part of a shadow political apparatus for Mr. Edwards after his defeat as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004 and before the start of his presidential bid this time around." Haircuts, houses, hedge funds . . .

The AP's Mike Baker has a similar take today "It's possible that the 'opportunity' the center was promoting was only John Edwards' opportunity — his opportunity to run for president," said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

That comes on top of the story that provided yesterday's biggest buzz -- has Edwards even lost the support of one of his daughters? Yesterday's Drudge headline suggested that 25-year-old Cate Edwards pointed to Clinton's picture when asked who her favorite presidential candidate was. The online furor briefly shut down the West Branch (Iowa) Times Web site -- and prompted a blogging response from Edwards' wife, Elizabeth. "It was Emma Claire, who pointed to a Hillary pin slyly and then, smiling pointed to her father. A nine-year sense of humor -- you would have thought Matt Drudge would have been able to pick up on that," Edwards wrote at, per ABC's Raelyn Johnson and Eloise Harper. Note to Elizabeth: Drudge usually wins these kinds of fights.

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