DENVER -- Do you get the feeling that someone is missing?
"Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose," implored Hillary Clinton when she spoke at the Democratic convention Tuesday night. Those who voted for neither Clinton nor Obama were conspicuously excluded.
There was, of course, a third candidate who did well enough in the Democratic primaries to qualify for delegates. He is nowhere to be seen, even as less-successful also-rans get their moments in the sun; Bill Richardson will speak today (he was rescheduled from yesterday), Joe Biden scored the vice presidential nomination, and even Dennis Kucinich got a little podium time on Tuesday. So where's John Edwards?
The answer is obvious, of course. In the wake of the scandal he came not-quite-clean on earlier this month on Nightline, Edwards is persona non grata in Denver. The New York Daily News reported on Tuesday that Edwards has been calling supporters to ask for forgiveness -- and getting the cold shoulder. ""I don't want you to call me again," one longtime confidant reportedly told Edwards. "There's an overwhelming view that he's still lying," said another Daily News source.
Indeed, there's plenty of evidence that Edwards' troubles aren't over. Rich Edwards friends like Fred Baron, the national finance director for his campaign, have apparently been underwriting an expensive cover-up, reportedly going so far as to charter a plane and fly Edwards' mistress to the U.S. Virgin Islands in an attempt to hide her. It's likely that more to this story that hasn't yet come to light, and plenty more turns that it may take.
Given all that, it's understandable that Edwards would be dead to Democratic partisans. There's little doubt that Edwards wanted to be here; Mary Ann Akers reported last week that even after his Nightline confession Edwards was still expressing interest in appearing in Denver for an event held by Bono's One Campaign. Presumably, he was firmly urged to stay away.
But Edwards still has at least one fan here in Denver. When I caught up with South Carolina delegate Mike Evatt yesterday, he had an Edwards button pinned to his overalls, which he wore over a Steelworkers for Edwards t-shirt. Evatt hails from Seneca, South Carolina, Edwards's birthplace, and his enthusiasm for his candidate remains undiminished.
Evatt believes Edwards was completely candid in his Nightline interview, and is eager to forgive and forget. "I wish he were here," said Evatt, when asked about Edwards' conspicuous absence in Denver.
The Obama campaign announced on June 3 that all of Edwards' South Carolina delegates, including Evatt, had committed to vote for Obama at the convention. But Evatt told me that he still planned on voting for Edwards in the roll call if he got the chance. He didn't; Hillary Clinton's call to suspend the rules and nominate Obama came before South Carolina's turn in the roll call, and the words "John Edwards" never did ring through the Pepsi Center.
Evatt's loyalty to his candidate may be unique. Tim Moore, another Edwards delegate from South Carolina, told me his feelings about Edwards hadn't changed, but he was terse and clearly unenthusiastic about the topic. He said he didn't watch the Nightline interview and thus couldn't comment on whether Edwards was completely truthful.
I attempted to contact ten other Edwards delegates from Iowa and South Carolina this week; none of them returned my phone calls. I guess they, like the rest of the Democratic Party, would rather not talk about John Edwards.
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