Leveraging the Edwards Endorsement

Watching John Edwards deliberate between Clinton and Obama, I imagine many people are, like me, wondering, "What's the problem? Endorse Obama and get it ...
by | February 13, 2008

Watching John Edwards deliberate between Clinton and Obama, I imagine many people are, like me, wondering, "What's the problem? Endorse Obama and get it over with." After all, Edwards has made no secret about his preference for Obama's politics over Clinton's.

While it is possible that Edwards's indecision is sincere, he has painted himself into a political corner of sorts--if he chooses Clinton, the "populist crusader" persona that has defined his two runs for the White House ends up looking disingenuous. He has to endorse Obama or risk losing credibility. So what is the problem?

James Surowiecki wrote regarding the recent writers' strike, "In economists' terms, strikes happen as a result of 'asymmetric information'--when one side knows more than the other about the real economics of the situation." For Edwards, the problem is that there isn't enough asymmetric information; everyone knows that he favors Obama.

So in order to gain any real leverage from his endorsement--to extract the largest value for his endorsement from the endorsed--he has to act torn. Otherwise, he simply gives his delegates away and doesn't get much back in return.

Happily, at least for the eventual winner of his endorsement, the more torn he genuinely appears, the more valuable his endorsement becomes (the build-up of media anticipation before his endorsement and the publicity of the endorsement being as valuable as Edwards's delegates themselves). Unfortunately, at least for the loser of the endorsement, the chance of winning his endorsement and his delegates--slim as it might be for Clinton--requires playing along with the charade.

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Will Wilson  |  Former Correspondent
willbwilson@gmail.com

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