Edwards to Make Obama Case to White Working Class

For Obama, announcement of Edwards endorsement timed to a T.


May 15, 2008 — -- Former Sen. John Edwards' endorsement of Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama was timed to the political second.

Just when Obama faced bleak headlines, raising doubts about his ability to connect with white working-class voters after a substantial loss to party rival Sen. Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, the Illinois senator was able to trot out the one Democrat who might be able to help.

Even if the endorsement does nothing else for Obama, it has already helped him -- by changing the subject.

The Obama campaign had kept the news of Edwards' backing such a secret that many in the audience had no idea what was in store.

Presenting his former rival as an enthusiastic supporter at a Michigan rally, Obama is no doubt hoping Clinton will eventually follow Edwards' lead.

"The reason I am here tonight is because the Democratic voters have made their choice, and so have I," Edwards told the cheering crowd.

Before dropping out of the Democratic race, Edwards had cast himself as the angry white man of the primaries, and his populist message carried broad appeal among the white working-class voters Obama has found it toughest to reach.

Now, Edwards finds himself in a position to help his former rival.

In an interview on "Good Morning America" today, even James Carville seemed impressed.

Carville, a Democratic strategist and Clinton adviser, told Diane Sawyer that Edwards' Wednesday night announcement in Michigan "certainly helps in terms of psychology of the superdelegates," but that the power of the endorsement would only be truly tested in Kentucky's Democratic primary Tuesday.

"Obviously it is something that's good for Sen. Obama," Carville said. "I wish [Edwards] would have endorsed Sen. Clinton -- but I'm not sure how much it's going to translate into votes."

Democratic strategist Tad Devine says the timing of the announcement matters as much as the endorsement.

"In presidential campaigns, timing is everything," Devine said. "The fact that Sen. Edwards would endorse Obama right after such a big loss in West Virginia is really important for Obama's gain, is Hillary Clinton's loss."

"Each candidate had made the pilgrimage to North Carolina, courting Edwards' endorsement," Devine said. "Aides to the former senator say he only made up his mind in the last couple days."

Edwards was coy on the late night circuit recently, when Jay Leno asked whether he had designs on the vice presidential spot on the Democratic ticket.

"I want to serve my country in whatever way I can," Edwards told Leno.

Obama shed no more light on a potential running mate Wednesday night as he made his his way back to Chicago.

"John Edwards is obviously somebody who would be on anybody's short list. But it is premature. I haven't won this nomination yet," Obama said.

At the very least, Edwards will hit the campaign trail in Kentucky and other states, trying to help Obama make the case where he needs it most: among white working-class voters.

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