The Politics of Cancer

After the good manners of a one-day grace period, the political speculation about John Edwards’ wife’s cancer has begun:

Much of that behind-the-scenes talk focused on what would happen if Edwards were eventually forced to suspend or abandon his bid, putting up for grabs the roughly 15 percent of the Democratic primary electorate currently backing him. Advisers to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have long said they would prefer having Edwards in the race to split the field and, specifically, divide the antiwar vote between Edwards and Obama.

That’s an interesting spin on things, and it’s a sign of how deep the antiwar sentiment is that that block of voters is presumed to be available only to Obama and Edwards and not Clinton.

I have also been pondering exactly how the campaign will handle things if Mrs. Edwards gets very ill because they gave all indications yesterday that it’s full speed ahead. Will there be outward signs of her illness that people can observe at campaign stops? What if she collapses or even dies during the campaign? That would a wild card to say the least.

Even if she makes it through the campaign, there are fairly high odds she would die of cancer during Edwards’ term as president. Do we really want to elect someone who might be severely distracted from his duties by his wife’s terminal illness?

Sorry if this rubs some readers the wrong way, and of course I wish Mrs. Edwards all the best, but I do wonder about these things, OK? Ezra Klein delved into the survival statistics the other day if that’s of interest.


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