Edwards' Staff: Don't Worry, We Were Just Wasting Your Time!

Edwards' Staff: Don't Worry, We Were Just Wasting Your Time!

Edwards' Staff: Don't Worry, We Were Just Wasting Your Time!

A mostly political weblog.
May 10 2009 8:49 PM

Edwards' Staff: Don't Worry, We Were Just Wasting Your Time!

George Stephanopoulos reports that Edwards staffers


in case they actually won the race they were being paid to win:

But by late December, early January of last year, several people in his inner circle began to think the rumors were true.

Several of them had gotten together and devised a "doomsday" strategy of sorts.

Basically, if it looked like Edwards was going to win the Democratic Party nomination, they were going to sabotage his campaign, several former Edwards' staffers have told me.


1) Which staffers? Not Joe Trippi, presumably-- he says he didn't know the truth about Edwards' affair until the next summer . Jonathan Prince?


2) Mighty convenient for staffers to say this now, just when they were looking a)   sleazy for staging the elaborate cover up that intimidated the press (not hard) and kept Democratic primary voters in the dark and b)  like potential presidency-destroyers , if they'd nominated a candidate who was fated to implode either before or after the election.  If this "doomsday" story is true, why didn't it come out last summer when Edwards "confessed" on Nightline ? Or once Obama was safely elected?

3) Why not quit the campaign quietly (or noisily) when they learned the truth ? Oh right, they were getting paid.

4) The staffers say they were "Democrats first," according to Stephanopoulos. By leaking this story now, during Elizabeth Edwards' "Why Am I Doing This?" Tour, are the staffers making a comment on Elizabeth's judgment or her party loyalty--suggesting she's maybe not a "Democrat first" but "Elizabeth first"? ...

5) How does Hillary Clinton feel about their willingness to let Edwards finish out his campaign? Edwards stayed in the race through the South Carolina primary, during which time he drained votes from somebody . I find it hard to believe he cost Hillary the nomination, but I wouldn't expect Mrs. Clinton to agree. It would be interesting if somebody attempted a thorough calculation of the effect of Edwards' presence. (By "somebody" I mean Nate Silver--who has already made a quickie run at Edwards' impact in Iowa .) ...  5/11 Update: Mark Blumenthal's calculation today is pretty thorough . His New Hampshire numbers seem especially devastating to the idea that Hillary would have benefitted from Edwards' absence. But, as Blumenthal notes, you can never respond conclusively to a conjecture that 'the whole dynamic of the race would have changed.' ... You could also speculate that Edwards' N.H. supporters lied to the pollsters Blumenthal cites--i.e. they were really non-black voters of the sort who would never have voted for Obama. (If only there were a name for this "effect.") ... I'd still be interested in what Nate SIlver's model shows--if I remember, it assumed that voters ethnicity (along with other demographic factors) was hugely predictive --suggesting Hillary might have picked up a lot of Edwards' white support in early primaries, no matter what a) "second choice" polls showed or b) what those voters told pollsters later in the race when Edwards finally dropped out. ...


6) What about all the Edwards volunteers who worked for him on the mistaken theory that he wasn't doomed? What about Edwards donors who gave him money on the same assumption? (Did any of these contributors donate after presentations by any of the Doomsday staffers? Isn't that a form of fraud?)

7) The strategy was to sabotage Edwards if he won, but let him live to fight another day if he lost. How was the latter a sufficient response?  If the National Enquirer hadn't finally busted him, Edwards could have gone on to become Attorney General, or Supreme Court justice, or maybe a senator. Or were the staffers going to trigger the Doomsday Scenario if he came close to one of those offices?  In any case, Edwards wasn't going to go away--he'd have continued to drain the time and energy of good-willed Democratic followers as he pursued whatever office he was pursuing.

Backfill: Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson made points 3, 4 and 5 on This Week . ...

Update: Edwards strategist Trippi calls the "doomsday" story " Complete BS ." From  CNN :

But Trippi, who worked closely with Edwards' most senior advisors, including Campaign Manager David Bonior and Deputy Campaign manager Jonathan Prince, suggested he would have been aware of a plan if one existed.

"I don't think there was an hour Prince wasn't with me," he said, adding later, "I can't conceive of how it was possible that if someone had a secret plan I wasn't aware of it."

Hmm. When Trippi was explaining to me why he wasn't part of the Edwards campaign's elaborate coverup , he emphasized his distance from the rest of the campaign--saying he "never got brought in" to the damage control efforts. "[Deputy campaign manager] Jonathan Prince and other people were dealing with it ... I was on the road a lot." [E.A.] He might not have been taken into the confidence of other Edwards aides, Trippi told me, because he'd worked for another candidate in 2004. "I was the Dean guy."

Now he's joined with Prince at the hip? I sense a tension between these two accounts! But I'm also skeptical of the "doomsday" story. (Maybe it was just a conversation or two between aides in the middle of the night that's now getting blown up into a bigger deal to save the aides' reps. ... On the other hand, you wouldn't have needed to an elaborate "plan" in order to "sabotage" the campaign. You'd have needed a dime.) ... 

6:25 P.M.