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January 19, 2008

Edwards The Kingmaker?

This situation is eerily reminiscent of the situation with the GOP in 1952.

John Edwards has said he’s in the Democratic primary to win it.

He’s also said he’s planning on staying in “through the convention.”

And while those two statements may sound more or less the same, they’re not.

Because while Edwards would like to be on the stage accepting his party’s nomination, there may be another role for him at the convention: Kingmaker.

The prospect of a vigorous, three-way contest across some 22 states on Feb. 5, suggested by polling and by the swerving momentum of the two early votes, is raising the distinct possibility that the primary process could return to its roots as a nuts-and-bolts battle for delegates to the August Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Now let's review that 1952 GOP race.

Going into the convention, there were three major candidates -- General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Senator Robert Taft, and Governor Earl Warren. Eisenhower and Taft were the two clear favorites, and entered the convention with the most delegates but without a majority. After some horse-trading that got Earl Warren promised the first open seat on the US Supreme Court (which turned out to be the Chief Justice spot), Warren released his delegates to Eisenhower -- and the broker of the deal, Senator Richard Nixon became the Vice Presidential nominee. Those three men turned out to be among the most important forces in American politics for the next quarter century, as two of them were the GOP nominees in five of the next six elections (winning four of them) and the third presided the reshaping of American jurisprudence in a manner that remains controversial but enshrined in our laws and culture.

So what bout 2008? Who gets the Edwards delegates if the Democrats enter their convention without a winner? What does he get in return? How does that reshape the political landscape for the rest of my lifetime if the nominee he taps wins the presidency in November? Those are the questions that have to be asked as we look at the dynamics at work. Does John Edwards want to be Vice President? Supreme Court Justice? Attorney General? Who will give him what he wants -- and who does he most want to see in the White House (other than himself)?

And what is even more fun is that the same thing could happen with the GOP, too!


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