The Edwards campaign clarified earlier statements on accepting public campaign financing.
(CNN)–John Edwards appeared to be stepping back from comments he made earlier this week in which he said he was committed to participating in public campaign financing, and the limits that come from such a commitment.
Aboard CNN's Election Express Bus on Thursday, CNN's Candy Crowley asked Edwards if he would completely commit to public financing. "I will. I think that, I have thought a great deal about this," the Democratic presidential hopeful said, "and again I want to go back to the not sounding holier than thou, I myself thought earlier in this campaign about the possibility of not taking public financing."
“Now are we talking about primary matching funds, or are we talking about general election matching funds?” Crowley asked. "We’re talking about through the campaign. Period," the former North Carolina senator said. "I will commit, because this is not about a money calculation. This is about taking a stand, a principled stand for what’s right. I believe in public financing. I’ve said that many times."
Those statements appear to contrast with later statements from the Edwards campaign. In an article in the New York Times on Friday, David Bonior, Edwards campaign manager, said that Edwards might reject public financing for the general election if the Republican nominee did not commit to doing the same. "Accordingly, we will continue to raise money for the general election so we will be ready to compete against the Republican nominee," Bonior said in the article.
In the same article, Joe Trippi, a senior adviser to the Edwards campaign, said that what Edwards had meant to say earlier was that he was committed to a similar proposal Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, had made to Republicans – that he would agree to public financing limits, if the eventual Republican nominee did the same. "He was thinking of the Obama challenge to the Republican nominee," Trippi said in the article.
On Saturday, the Edwards campaign called the comments from Bonior and Trippi a clarification of their position.
In order to qualify for so-called "matching funds," the public funding program for the primary season, the FEC requires candidates to demonstrate nationwide support by raising $5000 in 20 different states with no individual contribution to exceed $250, a task which poses little difficulty for major candidates like Edwards.
Once qualified, the federal government will match the first $250 from new contributors, provided Edwards adheres to a $50 million national spending limit, as well as spending limits in each state. Candidates may not receive more than about $21 million in matching funds.
Public funding in the general election comes in the form of an $84 million grant given to a major party nominee if the candidate agrees not to raise or spend outside funds.
No general election candidate has ever refused these funds since the program began in 1976, though this year a number of presidential candidates from both parties have indicated they may forego the general election funding.
Watch interview: Edwards to accept public financing
– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford