August 11th, 2008
01:45 PM ET
14 years ago

Clinton aide: If affair pushed Edwards out, she would have won

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Clinton is stumping for Obama – but aides still wonder what might have been."]
(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 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." Share your thoughts on the Edwards scandal

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."

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Dan, Maryland

    Ah, the Clinton campaign continues the "but if" scenarios. Stop whining, and grow up, Clinton and her aides ran probably the worst primary campaign imaginable and had absolutely no plan beyond February. Don't blame that on Edwards, don't blame it on sexism, don't blame it on Bill. The campaign was poorly managed, take responsibility for it and stop with the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" arguments.

    August 11, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  2. karen-phoenix

    No she would not have! I supported her up until super Tuesday. She lost. That was when she should have dropped out. Anything after that was her own ego and it divided the dem. party in a year it should not have. The Clinton's best get on board. Their time is coming to an end.
    Same as McCain - age matters and its time for young, educated and caring people in Washington. Clinton did a great job and can have a future but president or vp is out. Hillary, work on health care!!! We need it.

    August 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. d

    If the media did its job and reported the fact that Clinton is currently being sued for CAMPAIGN FRAUD by peter paul, she would of been out of this race a long long time ago.

    August 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. JP Bless

    If Florida had not invented hanging “chad” ballot
    If Ralph Nadar did not run in 2000
    If Florida's voting card had not looked like a Byzantine maze
    If George Bush had not run for presidency
    If Al Gore had won in 2000
    If Kerry had won in 2004

    What other political ifs does the CNN want to revisit?

    August 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. NVH

    GET OVER IT!!!! This is so stupid the way the Clintons are still dividing the party. SHE LOST!!!!!!! geez how long are they going to keep speculating about this that and the other. There is no evidence the outcome would have been different. People are tired of the Clintons. She was the well known brand that EVERYBODY knew and she still lost GET OVER IT!!!!! We want somebody else.

    August 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. kent


    August 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. Darryl Miller

    The same could be said about pstill pending Case Number: BC304174 PETER F PAUL VS WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON/April 25/2008. Thant Hillary Clinton is still facing .

    Why is it the the media is not talking about this??

    August 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. HRC for life

    This is sooo true, the media covered up the affair so that he could stay in the race and force Clinton not to win in Iowa. She would have won that state easily..WE ALL KNOW IT..She is the best candidate and would be the candidate. Its all part of the right wing and male conspiracy to keep her and like minded emotionally stable women down and not win..

    August 11, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. Josh

    Is that why so many Edward supporters went to Obama after he withdrew?

    August 11, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Jedeki

    This is getting ridiculous. Conspiracy theories, black helicopters, area 51, media coronation. Please get a life

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. Susan, NC via LA

    Stop beating a dead horse!

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  12. Debo

    Just another attempt at the failing Clinton campaign to cover its rear end for why they lost what was supposed to be a cake walk of a nomination. The bottom line is that they were tone deaf to what people wanted and underestimated Obama and his message. Likely if Edwards had not been in the race, Obama would have won by more than he did since it is clear that Edwards' supporters went to Obama by more than 3 to 1.

    What is surprising some degree is how sore losers the Clinton camp is, including their surrogates like Bob Kerrey who must be having senior moments himself with his racist talk. But the Clintons are sadly mistaken if they think their reluctant support for Obama will not be remembered as their political future and legacy go down the toilet. So much for milking feminism.

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. Melinda

    My goodness. Get over it already! We could go through every scenerio of the whole primary season and calculate many ways that either one of them would have one. Obama is our nominee, so drop it and move on!

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. Rneydr6034

    Hillary for president!!!

    This is for the delegetes and superdelegates. Guys and girls, please, come to your senses and nominate Hillary Clinton. You know it's the right thing to do and it's good for country. Just forget for a moment about yourselves and do something for the country. You can't believe Mr. Obama is qualified to be president and will win the election. Don't be afraid, it's not so difficult and it will feel good.

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  15. GOP supporter

    Those Clintons cannot vision themselves out of the political spotlight!! I'm not a Hillary supporter, however, Obama gains a lot of Democratic support if he chooses her for a running mate. Without her, he doesn't win!!

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. Keith McCarthy


    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. J.D., Washington, DC

    Ridiculous. Obama was the most popular union voters, capturing 36% of labor compared with 26% for Clinton and 23% for Edwards. Obama and Edwards also received roughly an equal share of voters over the age of 45.

    August 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. I'm looking at the Man in the Mirror

    Sour grapes America.

    Remember this is Howard Wolfson speaking to bolster "Howard Wolfson's" professional image on why the Clinton Team lost.

    Does his crystal ball also say how many of those Edwards supporters hated Hillary Clinton; either for her & Bill's past or for her being a woman?

    There is nothing to be gain nor can anything be claimed from speculating who Edwards folks would have backed.

    Hillary started this race with a huge lead in superdelegates and was the front runner in the polls. They blew it. It's that simple.

    August 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. Juli

    America...Is senator Clinton ever going to get it? I mean McCain or Obama will be in the White House and she will STILL be trying to be president. Thank God Obama is NOT pushing and feeling entitled as the first Black president in the same manner as Clinton feeling she must make history as the first Woman president. It is making it worse for all women to one likes a NAGGING COMPLAINING WHINNING WOMAN! not even America.

    August 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. Anthony Traglio

    If "Ifs & buts" were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas every day of the year. Clintonistas need to wake up and realize that Hillary missed the bus on the way to her coronation. America is tired of them.

    August 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  21. MLH

    Coulda, woulda, shoulda. But didn't. In politics, as in life, you pay your money and you take your chances. Wolfson needs to take a cleansing breath and then shut his mouth.

    August 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  22. Phil

    I don't recall that Edwards ever registered strongly enough during the campaign for this to be remotely true. If Edwards' affair had come out during the campaign, then Clinton might have lost to Obama a bit faster. Now if Obama had been caught having an affair, then maybe she would have won. Personally, I'm glad he kept his pants on (or that we don't know about it if he didn't)....

    August 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  23. Charles Douglas Lemay

    Yeah, and if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle!

    These pathetic people are going to spend the rest of their
    lives desperately searching under rocks for the reason
    Hillary lost.

    Maybe after that, they can all go help O.J. find the "real"


    August 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  24. George from Staten Island

    This just to show thta he's computer sabby. Do you actually belive that POTUS keeps a computer at his desk? every single need he has is taking of by someone lese.

    August 11, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Oh,, and one of the biggest reasons for her loss was selecting Wolfson as an aid.
    Mike in TX – If Clinton REALLY WAS supporting Obama now, she would explain the math to people like you, and how Wolfson and Ickes twisted facts to make false claims about the popular vote.
    One of the formulas to 'claim' a pv win was to count all of her 'votes' in MI and 0% for Obama.
    Also, Ickes added 3 to her 70 delegates in Mi. The 3 he added were stolen from the other candidate who illegally kept his name on the ballot. 55% of 128 is 70, not 73!

    August 11, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
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