While most Democrats and pundits try to divine what John Edwards's confession of adultery will mean going forward for the party, some Hillary Clinton partisans are looking back.
They wonder what might have been had the confirmation of the affair had come before the first Democratic presidential contest, likely knocking Edwards out of the race. The former North Carolina senator vehemently denied tabloid reports late last year of an affair with a woman who had been hired by his political action committee to make videos. The mainstream media did not delve into the case, and it wasn't an issue while Edwards was in the race.
I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," former Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com today, voicing the argument that Clinton's inevitability would have been strengthened by a win in Iowa -- not punctured by Barack Obama's surprise victory.
"Our voters and Edwards' voters were the same people," Wolfson said the Clinton polls showed. "They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama."
Instead, Obama won the caucuses with 38 percent of the vote, Edwards finished second with 30 percent, and Clinton ended up third with 29 percent. Obama emerged as the front-runner, Clinton had to pull off a come-from-behind win in the New Hampshire primary to stay in the nomination fight, and the Democratic contest became a bitter, drawn-out battle that lasted until June 3.
Entrance polls done for the TV networks, however, suggest that many Edwards voters would have gone for Obama instead, so Clinton still probably would have lost. And longtime Clinton strategist James Carville chalked up Wolfson's assertions to wishful thinking.
"My instinct tells me she probably would have done better if Senator Edwards wouldn't have been on the ballot," Carville said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "But that wasn't the circumstances at the time. I think Howard is fine in engaging in this kind of speculation, but it doesn't really mean very much."
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Salem State College announced today that, at least for now, the Sept. 23 appearance is still on for Edwards and his wife Elizabeth to discuss presidential politics and healthcare.
"During our 26-year history, the series has experienced controversy, demonstrations, cancellations, reschedules, deaths of speakers, and weather delays," the college said in a statement. "The Salem State Series has become a microcosm of contemporary life. We feel that there is a compelling story to be told by the Edwardses who have experienced both triumphs and many tragedies together."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.