Edwards denies calculation in timing of Obama endorsement
When former Senator John Edwards came out with a much-anticipated endorsement of presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday evening, there was immediate speculation that the announcement had been timed to offset the landslide victory of Senator Hillary Clinton in the West Virginia primary the previous day.
NBC's Matt Lauer asked Edwards about that timing during an interview on Friday, saying, "One week ago, you sat in that very chair, and I asked you four different ways if you were ready to make an endorsement, and you said, 'No.' When did you decide?"
"Within the 24 hours before I did it," Edwards replied. "It was 24 hours before that I decided this is the time to make a public announcement."
"You've heard the speculation that this endorsement was in the pocket already and that Barack Obama timed it to deflate Hillary Clinton right after her big win in West Virginia," Lauer noted. "Did you take part in that timing?"
"That's not plau-- not true," Edwards responded. "I know it's not true because I'm the one who made the decision about when to do this."
Although Edwards appeared uncomfortable with the question, it was not clear whether he was denying that the endorsement had been timed to overshadow Clinton's primary victory or merely saying that he, and not Obama, had chosen the timing.
"Why that timing, then?" Lauer persisted.
Edwards did not answer him directly, saying only, "I had made the decision ... prior to the North Carolina primary [on May 6], because I voted in that primary for Senator Obama. ... I think it is time for the Democrats to start uniting around this candidate."
It seems possible that Edwards might have delayed his endorsement until he was sure of backing the winner. One political analyst has suggested that even as she proclaimed her victory in West Virginia, Clinton was effectively conceding that she could not win the nomination.
Lauer asked Edwards whether he might be a potential vice presidential candidate on an Obama ticket, but Edwards replied flatly, "No. Won't happen." However, he did leave open the possibility of becoming attorney general, saying merely, "I don't want to get involved in that kind of speculation. Right now, we've got to focus on getting Barack Obama elected president of the United States, and then we'll worry about those things."
This video is from NBC's Today Show, broadcast May 16, 2008.