(CNN) – If reporters had nabbed former presidential candidate John Edwards lying about his extramarital affair, Hillary Clinton would have captured the Democratic presidential nomination, her former communications director said.
"I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com in an interview released Monday, because internal campaign polling showed "our voters and Edwards voters were the same people. They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama."
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Two months after Edwards first denied rumors of the affair, Barack Obama's win in the Iowa caucuses - and Clinton's third-place showing behind Edwards - fundamentally altered the shape of the race.
"Any of the campaigns that would have tried to push that [rumor] would have been burned by it," said Wolfson, who said he did not understand why, in his view, the national media had not aggressively reported the story. "I can't say I understand the rules of the media and I'm not sure they do either."
Clinton officials have long blamed the media for her failure to live up to pre-vote expectations.
Obama's campaign has disputed the idea that Edwards voters were natural Clinton voters if he were to exit the race, pointing to the fact that once the former North Carolina senator dropped out, Obama immediately went on to a string of victories, racking up 11 in a row. They also say that anti-war liberals in Iowa would not have supported Clinton, given her vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
The available numbers tend to argue against Wolfson's point of view, says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Among Edwards voters in Iowa, CNN polling indicated that Obama was the second choice of 43 percent, and Clinton of 24 percent, with 11 percent naming other candidates.
"Since Edwards got 30 percent of the vote, we can estimate that if Edwards had not been in the race, Obama would have picked up an additional 13 percentage points, and Clinton would have picked up an additional 7 percentage points," says Holland. "So hypothetically, if Edwards had not been in the race, Obama would have still won the Iowa caucuses by a 51 to 37 percent margin."