What Will Edwards Do?

WHAT WILL EDWARDS DO?….Via Tom Schaller, Dick Morris argues that John Edwards ought to withdraw from the Democratic race:

He manifestly can no longer win — but he helps Hillary Clinton if he stays in the race and boosts Barack Obama if he pulls out.

….Edwards divides the anti-Clinton vote — and so undermines the prospects for the changes that he so passionately demands in our government….Polling shows that the second choice of Edwards’ followers is overwhelmingly Obama.

This sounds absolutely right to me. At least it did sound right until a few days ago. Then I saw a couple of polling results that gave me pause.

First was the Iowa entrance polls, which showed that Edwards did best among self-described conservatives. That’s very odd since Edwards is the most progressive candidate in the race, and it suggests that a fair number of his supporters are voting their demographic, not their ideology. (No surprise there.) If that’s the case, then Edwards’ populist, working class supporters are more likely to switch to Hillary than to Obama.

Second, there were the results from New Hampshire, where it looks as if a part of Hillary’s unexpected surge came from Edwards voters. (Not a big part, but a part.)

Third, there’s Gallup’s latest poll, which shows Obama’s support unchanged from a week earlier, while Hillary is up and Edwards is down. This is too crude to draw any firm conclusions from, but it sure looks as if the 7% of voters who abandoned Edwards all went into the Clinton camp.

None of this is conclusive. And it certainly matters whether Edwards withdraws quietly a month from now vs. withdrawing in the near future and actively throwing his support to Obama. But I’ve been assuming all along that because Edwards was the most progressive major candidate running, that meant his supporters would likely move toward Obama if he withdrew. Now I’m not so sure. Edwards supporters who are voting for “change” might well swing toward Obama, but Edwards voters who are voting their demographic — older, whiter, more blue collar — are likely to swing toward Hillary. And it’s possible there are more of the latter than the former. Just sayin’.