“If he had come out and dropped out of the race particularly early, I think a lot of voters would have taken a good fresh look at Hillary Clinton,” he said. “Remember they supported Edwards ’cause they thought he was honest and trustworthy. And then they had questions about her being honest and trustworthy. And so if that equation had been reversed, she might well have picked up those votes.”
Similar speculation came up last fall, and a survey knocked it down:
A University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll conducted the night of the Iowa Caucuses suggests the opposite: that the absence of Edwards would have helped Obama. The survey administered to one randomly selected caucus participant in every precinct in Iowa on Jan. 3, 2008, included a question on second-choice preferences if a first-choice candidate was not viable. Eighty-two percent of those who had Edwards as their first choice said if he was not viable, they would support another candidate. When asked which candidate they would support, 51 percent said Obama and only 32 percent picked Clinton.
For such a high-level operative, Penn has a remarkably low level of information. In a story we cite in Epic Journey, Time reported last year:
As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. "How can it possibly be," Ickes asked, "that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?"