Washington Bureau

08.21.14

The Perils Of Backing John Edwards

Politicians like Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), who supported John Edwards' presidential campaign before the scandal, are now experiencing blowback.

In retrospect, it might have been a better political decision for a Democratic elected official to endorse almost anyone for president rather than John Edwards in 2008. The politically toxic legacy of the ex-senator has the potential to be used against a number of candidates this year and it already is being brought up against Congressman Bruce Braley, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Iowa.

parody video made by Republican PAC America Rising attacking Braley has been circulating across the Internet on Thursday. The video juxtaposes footage of the Democratic candidate apparently getting makeup applied to his face before shooting a commercial with a famous attack video of John Edwards getting his hair done while the song “I Feel Pretty” plays in the background. (In a tweet, CNBC's John Harwood has since said that Braley was getting sweat wiped off his face prior to an interview in the footage used in the video.) It then closes with footage of Braley endorsing Edwards during the former North Carolina politician's 2008 presidential campaign.

Obviously, Braley and other prominent Democratic candidates this year like Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon or Congressman Mike Michaud, who is running for governor of Maine, didn’t endorse Edwards, that congenitally dishonest philanderer.  Instead, they endorsed him back when he was just a charismatic Southern populist with great hair.

The problem now is that the endorsement has become political poison as the saga of Edwards' tense marriage and strange affair with videographer Rielle Hunter has gone down in American political history as a sordid, country-fried version of Macbeth.

It’s unlikely that the video will harm Braley much with voters. After all, Edwards has already faded into tabloid obscurity for most Americans but it illustrates the risks of endorsements. But, while even one of the handful of supporters of a long-shot like Chris Dodd can still cash in their political chits for donations or even perhaps a campaign trip, Edwards supporters received no political benefit from their backing to the point where even a personal check from the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee might be returned as too toxic to accept.  After all, there’s always a chance that any candidate in any race can lose, it’s part of politics. It’s just a tough break when the losing candidate is also a narcissist fooling around on his cancer stricken wife as well.