Our Powers Combined

John Edwards unveiled a new Web site today that asks voters not to vote for any candidate who takes money from lobbyists or Political Action Committees.

Sorry, let me rephrase that. Edwards unveiled a Web site today that asks voters not to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Championing his own commitment to a lobby-free lifestyle, Edwards wants to rally a million Americans around an anti-lobby pledge. The Web site is the culmination of a campaign-long initiative by Edwards to move fund-raising away from lobbying and PACs. A noble goal, certainly, but this is chiefly a political gesture, and the politics of the move aren’t that sound.

The problem is, his attacks against Clinton, who has defended the role of lobbyists in politics, continue to help Obama. On a conference call this morning, Edwards’ staff had the chance to hammer Obama, but chose not to. A reporter asked Edwards’ staffers whether the pledge’s anti-lobbyist clause meant pledgers couldn’t vote for Obama. (Obama accepted lobbyist money when he ran for Senate and while he was a state senator.) The Edwards campaign dodged the question, but the pledge implies that since Obama had atoned for his lobbyist sins, he’s in the clear.

At some point, Edwards is going to have to realize that voters he shakes loose from Hillary’s grasp aren’t all flocking to him. And with Obama’s recent PAC flap in the news, he’s passing up a golden opportunity to go after Hillary and Obama. Sure, he doesn’t want to seem overly aggressive. But as Edwards himself likes to remind us, the Democratic primary isn’t a two-person race—certainly not between him and Senator Clinton, anyway.