Just wanted to pass along some insights into a possible Edwards endorsement amid his semi-stealth meetings with Hillary and Obama. I'm told by people close to Edwards that his thinking is essentially this: Edwards likes Obama personally, thinks he really intends to change the status quo, but isn't convinced he's ready to be president* and has concerns about whether he's tough enough to take on the GOP. (I'm told the second concern looms larger than the first.) On the other hand, Edwards is lukewarm on Hillary personally, doesn't think she'd change much of anything, but thinks she'll really pummel the GOP. As for Elizabeth, it sounds like she's just as conflicted. I've heard she's even more down on Hillary, but is also impressed by Hillary's willingness/ability to kick GOP ass.

Bottom line: It sounds like Edwards could really go either way, or neither.

My own take is this: The atmospherics of a Hillary endorsement would look very, very bad for Edwards. You can't spend six months bashing someone as a symbol of everything that's wrong with Washington, then embrace that person and expect to come away smelling like roses. Particularly not when there's another extremely viable candidate out there talking about 90 percent of what you campaigned for. If Edwards cares at all about his reputation, a Hillary endorsement is a terrible move for him. (For what it's worth, I'm not saying Hillary is a symbol of everything that's wrong with Washington--far from it, I think she'd make a good president--just that this was Edwards's argument for most of the campaign.)

Having said that, I'm not convinced a Hillary endorsement would be bad for Obama. Edwards's former supporters have already voted with their feet--the recent evidence suggests they've largely flocked to Obama. But an Edwards endorsement would help Hillary retain the aura of front-runner a little longer, something that hasn't been especially useful to her. And it would probably motivate a lot of Obama (and former Edwards) voters, who saw it as a betrayal by Edwards. I think they'd suspect some nefarious backroom deal here--exactly the kind of thing Edwards and Obama vowed to change about Washington.

If, on the other hand, Edwards endorses Obama, the risk is that the race starts to look like Hillary against the world--and, in particular, two male politicians ganging up on her--which is a development that has served her well. Not least in New Hampshire.

The counter-argument is that team Hillary needs something--anything--to stop the flow of bad news right now, and an Edwards endorsement would accomplish that. I can see the logic there, but I still think she's better off with Obama getting it. (Maybe I'd put it this way: Best case scenario for Hillary is Obama getting it, second best is her getting it, worst is Edwards doing nothing.)  

*Obviously one could raise the same question about Edwards himself...

--Noam Scheiber