John Edwards, a former contender for the Democrat nomination for the US presidency, has decided to support Barack Obama. It's another setback for Hillary Clinton's dwindling chances of winning the nomination, despite her healthy victory in the West Virginia primary the other day.
The Edwards endorsement is significant because it goes right to the heart of one of Senator Obama's big problems - his lack of appeal to white working class voters. This was most recently proved in West Virgnia, an overwhelmingly white state, which Senator Clinton won by more than 40 points. Senator Obama's controversial remark earlier in the campaign that many whites are "bitter" and so cling to guns or religion, is something he'll have to work hard to live down.
That's where John Edwards could come in. During his own run for the presidency both this year and in 2004, he was hugely popular among white working class voters, and won the support of many big unions. His endorsement won't on its own suddenly guarantee all those supporters follow him in backing Senator Obama, but it could help move the issue down the political agenda a bit. Both the media and senior members of the Democratic party may be less likely to constantly bring up Senator Obama's lack of appeal among white working class voters, which ought to allow some of his other messages to get through more clearly.
This might not be the last we hear of John Edwards in this race. He could join Senator Obama as his running mate for November's general election. Although there are reasons why this might not be a great idea - he after all lost four years ago when on John Kerry's ticket - John Edwards could bring plenty to the Obama campaign. Not only would he help win over those white working class voters, but as a southerner he could improve their chances in some important states, and he's a credible alternative president, which is an unspoken but crucial part of being a candidate for the vice presidency. Whatever happens, there really is just about no hope left for Senator Clinton.