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MU Professor Says Edwards' Endorsement May Not Give Obama Edge

Edwards could be positioning to run for vice president

May 15, 2008

Story Contact:  Bryan E. Jones, (573)882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Sen. John Edwards’ recent endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama gives Obama something positive to talk about in the wake of rival Hillary Clinton’s win in the West Virginia primary this week. As the primary season slows down, a University of Missouri professor says the endorsement may not give Obama the decisive edge he needs, but may position Edwards to run for vice president.

“Edwards’ endorsement will help Obama in a limited way, but it probably won’t be a decisive event. Obama’s campaign will portray it as a big event, and the media may talk about it because there isn’t much going on in the campaign currently,” said William Benoit, an expert on political communication in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Even if all of Edwards’ delegates go to Obama, that would only increase his lead over Clinton from 166 to 185; still more than 100 delegates shy of what is needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.”

According to Benoit, both Obama and Clinton wanted Edwards’ endorsement because presidential candidates want every edge they can obtain. Benoit said the 2008 primary campaign has gone on so long, and those who are interested in the campaign have had plenty of opportunity to learn about the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, their policy positions, and their characters. He said an endorsement is most useful for voters who haven’t decided and don’t know much about the candidates.

“Sen. Edwards was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2004.  It is possible that he is positioning himself as a potential VP candidate for 2008,” Benoit said. “The Democratic Party appears to have a better chance at winning the presidency in 2008 than it did in 2004.  So, even though Edwards would surely prefer to be the presidential candidate, he might be willing to run for vice president again.”

Benoit has been a MU faculty member since 1984. He is the second-most published scholar of all time in significant communication research journals. Benoit is the author of several books on political campaigns, including Communication in Political Campaigns (2007).