Definitely the big news of Wednesday for Democrats was John Edwards unexpectedly dropping out of the presidential campaign. He did not endorse anyone in doing so, but rumors are flying all over the Internet on whether he will, and when. Almost noone believes he would endorse Hillary, while some believe he will endorse Obama this week, some that he will do so after Tsunami Tuesday, and others that he won't at all. I saw one report--or maybe just a rumor--that he's going to be at the Democratic debate Thursday, in the audience. If he is going to endorse this week, this might be the occasion.
Al G. says on his blog that the New York Daily News is reporting that the majority of Edwards' advisors are advising him to endorse Obama before Tsunami Tuesday.
There's also buzz that the Obama campaign is telling folks to expect another major endorsement this week. It could be Edwards, it could be Bill Richardson (who according to one story I saw is likely to announce his endorsement of someone by Saturday), it could be Al Gore, or somebody else. (It won't be Jimmy Carter, apparently; he praised Obama Wednesday but stopped short of a formal endorsement, and said he wouldn't be giving one.)
One thing Edwards' exit has definitely done is make the new round of polls coming out meaningless, except in terms of the movement they're showing--and it all looks to be towards Obama. The most recent is the Rasmussen telephone poll in California, conducted after the Florida primary but before Edwards' announcement. It show Obama closing the gap to just 3% behind Hillary.
Another poll shows Obama closing the gap in Massachusetts.
The big one is the national Gallup poll which again has Obama erasing a huge deficit to come within 6 points:
Barack Obama has now cut the gap with Hillary Clinton to 6 percentage points among Democrats nationally in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking three-day average, and interviewing conducted Tuesday night shows the gap between the two candidates is within a few points. Obama's position has been strengthening on a day-by-day basis. As recently as Jan. 18-20, Clinton led Obama by 20 points. Today's Gallup Poll Daily tracking is based on interviews conducted Jan. 27-29, all after Obama's overwhelming victory in South Carolina on Saturday. Two out of the three nights interviewing were conducted after the high-visibility endorsement of Obama by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his niece Caroline Kennedy.
Edwards got 12% in this poll. So the question is: where will his voters go, especially if he doesn't endorse? Pundits have been cautious so far. The most sensible estimate I heard was E.J. Dionne talking to Keith, who noted that Hillary and Edwards split the 3/4 of the white vote Obama didn't get, and suggested that Hillary will be helped by Edwards' absense in the South, but Obama will be helped everywhere else. If so, this would be good news for Obama, who is significantly stronger in the South right now vs. Hillary, according to polls.
A poll in New York state shows Hillary has dropped below 50%, and there's just a 12 point gap, and Obama only has 44% of the black vote, so there's room to grow. The New York Post endorsed Obama Wednesday. But the bigger news may be coming from the New York Times, which Thursday has a front page story about Bill Clinton and his machinations with some unsavory international characters that could have an impact. It may be too complicated--but it may have legs, we'll see.
Otherwise in the battle of endorsements, Hillary got Patty Murray, Senator from Washington. A fascinating endorsement for Obama Wednesday came from 80 volunteer lawyers for prisoners at Guantanamo. And the most intriguing possibility of the day came with the announcement by Moveon.org that it is asking its 2 million members via the Internet if they wish to endorse a presidential candidate. If the answer is yes, the members will vote--and the results could be announced as soon as Friday. But a candidate will have to get two-thirds of the membership to be endorsed. It's a big deal because of Moveon.org's size, activism and proven ability to raise money.
Speaking of activists, the Daily Kos community has moved quickly to Obama after the Edwards announcement. Last time I checked it was Obama 78%, Hillary 12%, with 11% for neither or undecided. A week ago Obama and Edwards were tied at the top with about 40% each; in terms of raw votes, Hillary's seems about the same, and Obama's has about doubled.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is in the West, in advance of the debate in Hollywood Thursday. On Wednesday there was a rally in Phoenix with Obama, Caroline Kennedy and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who has endorsed Obama. I believe Obama has some events in California Thursday, and will be in New Mexico Friday.
Teddy Kennedy is in New Mexico Thursday and California on Friday. John Kerry is in Washington and California Friday and Saturday.
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