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Would Edwards Really Not Endorse Hillary?

Today's NYT notes that John Edwards refused to offer the standard answer to the standard question about whether he'll endorse Hillary Clinton should she win the Democratic nomination:

Between campaign appearances last week, as he rode through eastern Iowa in his campaign van, Mr. Edwards declined to answer whether he would support Mrs. Clinton.

“I’m not willing to talk about that at this point,” he said, waiting silently until the next question was asked.

I don't think this is that surprising. As the Democratic candidate who's been most unsparing in his criticism of Clinton, Edwards would look like a total hypocrite if, in the midst of offering his whithering Clinton critiques, he pledged his future support to her. 

That said, I'd be pretty shocked if, in the event Hillary bests him, Edwards ends up withholding his endorsement. For one, it's impossible to see Edwards mounting any sort of third-party challenge. What's more, I don't think Hillary's done anything in the campaign up to this point--besides leading it--that would have earned her Edwards's neverending enmity; she certainly hasn't taken the gloves off in a way that would make Edwards hate her so much as to spite her in the general election. (Although The Weekly Standard's pseudononymous blogger Richelieu, in his entertaining taxonomy of political hatred, does think that the object of Edwards's "secret hatred" is Hillary.) 

So, in other words, I think Edwards's refusal to give the standard pledge to support his party's nominee is smart politics. And I think that, if Hillary winds up being that nominee, he'll fall in line behind her like every other vanquished Democratic candidate.

--Jason Zengerle