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Fox News "Democrat" Howard Wolfson is embracing his new role as "useful idiot and concern troll" wholeheartedly.

Sen. Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic presidential nominee if John Edwards had been caught in his lie about an extramarital affair and forced out of the race last year, insists a top Clinton campaign aide, making a charge that could exacerbate previously existing tensions between the camps of Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

"I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," former Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com.

Let's examine this claim, looking at two of the last Iowa polls before the caucuses.

Mason-Dixon for McClatchy-MSNBC. 12/26-28, 2007. MoE 5%

"As you may know, if a candidate fails to get at least 15% at a precinct caucus their supporters can switch and choose to caucus with those backing other candidates or declare themselves uncommitted. If the candidate you are supporting fails to reach the 15% threshold at your precinct ... Which candidate would become your second choice?""

Edwards 32
Obama 20
Clinton 16

Opinion Research Corp for CNN. 12/26-30, 2007. MoE 5%

"If the presidential caucus in Iowa were held today, please tell me which of the following people ... would be your second choice?"

Edwards 36
Obama 25
Clinton 11

Given that Edwards, Obama and Clinton were all essentially tied heading into caucus day, it's telling that Clinton lagged the other two candidates as the fallback choice of Iowa voters. Now there's no polling that shows specifically who Edwards supporters considered as their second choice, so these numbers aren't determinate of anything much other than the fact that Clinton was the least popular second choice. But it seems absurd to suggest that 2/3rds of Edwards voters would've backed Clinton given those numbers above. And if you group Edwards supporters with Obama supporters as anti-establishment "change" voters, then the notion seems even more absurd.

Now note -- the CW during the early primaries was that Edwards helped Obama as long as he stayed in the race. Even I subscribed to this theory -- that if Edwards dropped out, white voters could boost Clinton past Obama. But what happened after Edwards exited the race?

Edwards dropped out January 30. Shortly after, Obama won Super Tuesday, winning Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri. Outside of Massachusetts, Clinton, for her part, won only home and regional strongholds (Arkansas and New Jersey) and states with large Latino populations -- Arizona, California, and New Mexico -- which she owned in the primaries (spawning those ridiculous "only Clinton can win the brown vote" stories now proven patently false).

Then, after Super Tuesday, Obama went on to crush Clinton in DC, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. It wasn't until Texas and Ohio on March 4 that Clinton was able to stop her streak of landslide losses, long after Edwards' memory had faded from the campaign trail.

So if Clinton was truly the second choice of Edwards voters, they sure had a funny way of showing it -- voting for Obama in huge numbers.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 02:45 PM PDT.

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