In a more that can either be viewed as principled political stand, or a reflection of the financial status of the campaign, the John Edwards campaign announced today that they will seek public financing for the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.

“You can’t buy your way to the Democratic nomination—you should have to earn the votes of the American people with bold vision and ideas,” said Edwards’ campaign manager Congressman David Bonior. “This is the most expensive presidential campaign in history, by far. And the simple fact is that the influence of money in politics—and the focus on raising money in this election—has gotten out of control. It’s time to get back to focusing on the issues that matter to the American people. That’s why John Edwards has decided to play by the rules that were designed to ensure fairness in the election process by capping his campaign spending and seeking public financing.”

The campaign also urged Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to join them in renouncing special interest contributions and agreing to the $10 million primary elections spending cap. “Senator Clinton said she believes public financing is the answer to ending the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington,” said Congressman Bonior. “If she really believes that, she should join Senator Edwards and seek public financing, or she should explain to the American people why she does not mean what she says.”

The Edwards campaign claims that they have plenty of money to compete. “Edwards has raised more than any Democratic candidate in history before this race. We have more than enough money to compete,” said Congressman Bonior. “The truth is, this election is about ideas—not how much money you’ve raised. And no one has better ideas for how to bring real change to America than John Edwards. That’s why we’re confident he can not only compete in this election—but he will win.” 

According to, Edwards is trailing Clinton and Obama with the third fundraising quarter ending on September 30. Through the second quarter Edwards had only raised $23 million, while Obama had almost $59 million and Clinton $63 million. Edwards only has $13 million on hand compared with $36 million for Obama, and $45 million for Clinton. The Edwards campaign is trailing by so much in fundraising that it doesn’t really hurt them to try to take a political stand, and contrast themselves with Clinton, who really is the candidate of the special interests.

I understand the politics behind this move. Edwards is trying to distinguish himself from Clinton. After the debate last night, it looking more like Edwards is the only candidate that is willing to challenge Clinton. It seems like Obama is content to talk in vague generalities and agree with Hillary on most policy. However, the timing of the announcement is a bit dubious. My guess is that we will find out in a couple of days that Edwards had another poor fundraising quarter. I think that if Edwards had $40 million in the bank, he wouldn’t even be talking about public financing. To me, this step is an ominous sign the Edwards campaign is going to have to win early, or they won’t be in the race for the long haul.

Edwards statement 

Jason Easley is the politics editor at His column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Jason is also the host of TPU Radio, which can be heard at every Sunday morning at 11 AM ET



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