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« A Nail-Biter In WY? | Blog Home Page | Sweet Relevance »

As Edwards Fades, Lawyers Get Involved

Top trial lawyers met for their winter conference this weekend at a resort in Puerto Rico, and while no presidential candidates joined them (though DNC chair Howard Dean did), several chief advisers to front-running candidates were on hand to convince the attorneys to come on board. Trial lawyers, who provide key financial footing for Democratic candidates, have for months stood behind fellow barrister John Edwards.

Still, Edwards' 4% showing in Nevada, and his disappointing third-place finish in South Carolina, have given his backers pause and opportunity to consider other candidates. Edwards raised more than $8 million from trial lawyers through the third quarter, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, second only to Clinton and just barely ahead of Obama.

As his campaign hits the skids, the Washington Post reports, other campaigns have seen an opening. Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, and Julianna Smoot, Barack Obama's finance chief, plied trial lawyers at the conference to become their new bundlers. The $100 million candidates, as Edwards is fond of calling them, need the new help. In the run-up to February 5, they're burning more than $2 million a day, the Post writes.

Trial lawyers are a good place for both campaigns to start; they provide more money to Democratic causes than virtually any other interest group available. As Democratic candidates have dropped by the wayside, their top bundlers are getting phone calls from big names in both Obama's and Clinton's camps have sought out their fundraisers.

Democrats have outraised their GOP counterparts by wide margins this year, and trial lawyers will play a big role in ensuring the party has the money to compete in November. Trial lawyers had given nearly $38 million through the third quarter, and just $8 million of that went to Republicans. Once a Democratic nominee is decided, the vast majority of trial lawyer money is expected to go their way.

But because the Democratic race drags on, McAuliffe and Smoot spent the weekend in Puerto Rico, wooing donors who can sustain them through what looks like an increasingly long fight. One possible way to woo former Edwards backers: Promise him the Attorney General's slot.