I mean, if it's not over until the fat lady sings... then that's not John Edwards.
The question, as last night fades into this morning, isn't so much "why did Edwards endorse Obama" - that's been in the cards for months, even with stories about tensions between the Obamas and the Edwardses - but "why now?" Why not before West Virginia, at the very least, or at least, why not in North Carolina, where it would have made sense? Why not come out after the loss in Pennsylvania, when the difference it could make down the line would be much clearer?
As Jeralyn says over at Talk Left, I tend to think it's because of the West Virginia results, but in a slightly different way: lost in the coverage of last night's loss was much mention of the fact that Edwards got 7% of the vote in West Virginia, which is what really led to Obama's losses in WV coming close to his lows in the white vote in South Carolina. In both places, the combination of Edwards and Cinton appealing to white voters pushed Obama's numbers down dramatically.
I'm not sure Edwards had a choice with results like that - he's been out of the contest for months, and this result beats percentages he got while he was still in the race. I think the expression of dissatisfaction - especially with Obama - inherent in his vote total, forced his hand. And, since I tend to think Edwards is especially prone to following the political winds (that hair looks better in a breeze, really), the choice of Obama was fairly obvious: time to stick to the winner. And that meant taking his name out of consideration for white voters looking for a way to protest Obama without picking the woman.
Choosing Clinton, after all, would reflect a bravery and a confrontational style that simply isn't Edwards: despite being closer to her on issues like healthcare, and sharing her concern, ostensibly, for the challenges of those less economically well off, Edwards can usually be found on the winning side of an issue.
And it's hard to see how the Southern white man would be on anyone's winning side by picking the white woman over the black man.
On the plus side, this endorsement probably means, as others suggest, that Florida and Michigan are solved: Obama can't claim close to half of Edwards delegates without seating Florida, in full. I also tend to believe that Edwards probably got some promise, like Attorney General, something he'd be unlikely to extract from Mrs. Clinton,
Edwards clearly would love to be a conciliator and a unifier; his endorsement of Obama focused on shared values and coming together... but that, too, made his endorsement just as odd: why pick Obama over Clinton? Well, because he said so; and because, well, it's over.
It says something that even Nick Beaudrot, both a longtime Edwards admirer as well as a gung-ho Obama backer, can't see the logic. It makes even less sense staking the usefulness of an Edwards endorsement on reversing the steep disparity in Kentucky when that result seems unlikely. That's especially true as any number of people move to the realization that by winning Kentucky and heading toward success in Puerto Rico, Clinton may well have the actual popular vote lead at the end of this. It's a sobering calculation to see the Democrats poised to overlook the popular vote leader in favor of technical success... and a moment where Florida plays a key part. It all seems so familiar... and at the very least, it's not the sound of a fat lady singing that makes this tune so familiar.