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Edwards memo defends matching funds

From NBC/NJ's Tricia Miller
In a memo obtained by NBC News/National Journal, Edwards campaign manager David Bonior tried to reassure supporters that the campaign made the decision to accept public financing on principle, not because it was struggling financially.

"It became clear if we didn't lead by example, no one would," Bonior wrote.

An aide to the campaign expounded: "He's been thinking about it for a while now and watching Clinton on the Sunday shows talk about how public financing was the answer to all this, [we] figured we'd call her bluff."

In the memo, Bonior explained that Edwards would still operate comfortably within its four-state strategy, which the campaign has previously said would cost $40 million.

"This in no way handicaps us in the early primary states, and it does not put us at a disadvantage going into the general election," he wrote.

Clinton and Obama have said they support public financing of all elections but have made no move to accept public financing for this race. Edwards said he would also challenge the eventual Republican nominee to accept public financing, but he has also said his decision to accept matching funds in the general would depend on his opponent's decision.

In the memo Bonior wrote: "John Edwards believes the best thing and the right thing would be to operate the campaign under the public financing rules for the entire presidential campaign. But he also understands that almost none of the Republican candidates share this commitment. Accordingly, we will continue to raise money for the general election so we will be ready to compete against the Republican nominee.

"Once we win the nomination, John will challenge the Republican nominee to join him in accepting public financing. ... If they refuse, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it and make the decision at that time about whether to accept public financing."

The aide insisted, as Bonior did, that the decision was made on principle.

"[Voters] can choose between a candidate bought and sold by special interests or someone who's campaigning within the ethical guidelines established by public financing," the aide said.

But coming just three days before the end of the third quarter fundraising period and since he didn't do so when this campaign started, they may have an uphill battle in selling this message. Considering all the negative press coverage Edwards received today regarding this decision, this memo was a necessity.