Boolise sent word this afternoon that John Edwards was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race. I saw Edwards when he came to Gainesville during the '04 campaign, and thought he was smart, funny and extremely charismatic, and a far better articulator of John Kerry's virtues than John Kerry (Kerry is a good man, I think, but not a great campaigner). It seemed clear that, whatever the outcome of that year's election, Edwards was setting himself up for a long and successful career in Democratic national politics.
He might still have that (a President Clinton or Obama would be foolish not to place him in the Cabinet somewhere), but not this year. Edwards didn't seem quite as boyishly enthused as he did in '04, and his campaign made a few missteps (most notably his less-than-thoughtful reaction to the whole Hillary faux-crying 'incident'). But he made many valuable contributions to this primary season, his boyishness replaced with a more focused and mature examination of economic issues and a consistent and passionate defense of those left behind by the current Administration's policies. He never wavered from defending homeless vets, displaced New Orleanians, or a working class screwed by special interests. For that forthrightness he was pilloried by a media culture as "superficial" (a weird case of projection, since they were the ones who wanted to talk about his hair), when they weren't cutting him out of the coverage altogether. That he kept speaking and campaigning in the face of this, and did so while also facing the re-emergence of his wife's cancer, makes him much more the "character" candidate to me than a shameful panderer and media-created "straight talker" like John McCain, but that's the way the Chris Matthews bounce, bounces, I guess.
As a voter, I would've liked a wider range of choices by the time the primaries reach Ohio (and I agree with dday that this is yet another reason the whole primary system needs to be revamped). But I can't blame Edwards for getting out, and I salute him for the progressive contributions he made to the national dialogue.