John Edwards has no hope of winning the Democratic nomination, and unlike, say, Ron Paul, is unlikely to run as a third party candidate. He also isn’t exactly getting his message across – the press following the Dem candidates focuses almost exclusively on the two main candidates. Also, he also doesn’t strike me as an idiot (though being an idiot doesn’t preclude a person from running, or even winning the Presidency). So what is he doing still in the race?
Well, he’s young enough to have more runs for the presidency (or at least for his party’s nomination) in him, and he clearly has the wherewithal (money, ambition, charisma) to do it again. So, he’s probably running for election not in 2008, but in 2012 (if a Republican is elected in 2008) or 2016.
How do you go about becoming President if you’re John Edwards then? The first thing is not to piss off either of the two big gorillas until you either know which one is going to win, or, ideally, until you can cast the deciding vote as kingmaker. And you don’t become kingmaker unless you stay in the race and keep picking up nominees.
If you do become kingmaker, what do you want for it? The obvious slot is the VP slot. But, in recent decades, the only veep to go on to get an upgrade (without the president dying or being forced out of office, which isn’t something you can count on happening) was GHW, and it didn’t hurt that he ran against Michael Dukakis. Being a VP is also risky… its not a position that calls the shots, but your fortunes rise and fall on how the President has done. But there are VPs that do call some shots. Cheney is a prime example. Gore was put in charge of “re-inventing government.” Its possible for a kingmaker to get some high profile responsibilities (whether with the VP slot or some cabinet level posting) and a guarantee that enough resources will flow in that direction that only an idiot would fail to look good at it.
I would guess that’s what John Edwards wants to do.