Now Edwards and Rudy are gone – what next?

It’s a bit on the stale side newswise, but I wanted to bring their withdrawal up this evening to discuss the impact their absence from their respective party races could have.

Let’s start with John Edwards. Once again he was denied the brass ring as he was in 2004. But this time I don’t think he’ll get the consolation prize (such that it was) of being number 2 on the ticket. If you look at how he campaigned on the theme of “soup line America” (even in his concession speech, which now serves as the remainder of his campaign site), I can’t see him on the stump as the Democrat’s running mate. Personally I don’t think Obama would pick him and my money is on Bill Richardson getting the nod if Hillary’s nominated.

But more importantly, where do his votes go? He got a solid plurality of the white male vote in South Carolina, and that’s your average union person. But many of those Rust Belt states don’t vote until later in the campaign and by then it may be a fait accompli.

A big deal was made in Iowa about 70% of the vote going against Hillary but I think the Edwards vote will accrue to Hillary for two reasons: first, I think most of the anti-Hillary vote had already pretty much abandoned John after Iowa when they saw Barack Obama was the stronger candidate; secondly, the race card that Bill and Hillary Clinton dealt in South Carolina will rake in the chips among the lunchbucket set in the Rust Belt. Those may be the states that Bill hits heavily after Super Tuesday because there’s a lot of unionistas who fondly recall the “good days” when Bill was in office. Many of them would be all for the “two for the price of one” idea.

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The Democrat polls are tightening a bit in some states but Hillary should prevail nevertheless.

As if the conservative movement didn’t have enough issues, Rudy Giuliani got out of the race and backed John McCain, and in a glowing manner to boot. How about this passage by Michael D. Shear from the Washington Post:

The presidency requires someone with a “clear vision” about the challenges that the country faces, Giuliani told a room packed with television cameras. It requires a person with “will” and “perseverance” to get things accomplished for the country, said the former New York mayor.

“Obviously, I thought I was that person,” Giuliani joked. “The voters made a different choice.”

And then, Giuliani spoke the words that should warm McCain’s heart and help fill his campaign coffers.

“John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States,” Giuliani said, moments after officially withdrawing. “He is an American hero, and America could use heroes in the White House. He is a man of honor and integrity, and you can underline both ‘honor’ and ‘integrity.'”

Rudy was getting around 10% in Super Tuesday states before he exited. If you figure that 60-70% of Rudy’s votes will go to McCain, that’s an extra 2 to 4 points which Mitt Romney or the fading Mike Huckabee have to make up against the Republican nominee of the Fourth Estate Party and I simply don’t see that happening.

More alarmingly to me, I’ve already noticed a trend among voting states where the Democrats have more total votes than the Republicans, and this trend is sure to continue if McCain keeps building his lead and conservative Republicans feel more and more abandoned by the process. They’ll show their displeasure by blowing off Election Day.

In turn, that apathy may hit close to home. If the conservatives on the Eastern Shore decide to forgo the primary, it may boost Wayne Gilchrest’s chances at staving off the twin challenges of Andy Harris and E.J. Pipkin. Judging by our September straw poll, Fred Thompson was a clear favorite among local voters and those voters also liked Andy Harris (note that this was prior to E.J. Pipkin’s entry into the race.) With the Reagan-style presidential hopefuls gone, Harris, and to a lesser extent Pipkin, will have to figure out some way to motivate their charges on February 12.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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