Well, nobody is paying attention, but I thought I'd ask this question.
Do Clark and Edwards really hurt each other by remaining in the race?
This seems to be the conventional wisdom. Certainly it's the implication of what all the network news honchos have been saying (c.f. MSNBC, where they were all laughing about how Kerry wanted to send some votes Clark's way in Oklahoma). Saletan, with his "Clark is stopping Edwards from stopping Kerry," article, makes the same claim.
As far as I can tell, this seems to be based on the idea that people who support Edwards and Clark are basing their support largely on the fact that they don't want to support Kerry (and perhaps that they want to support a southerner). So with two non-Kerry candidates in the race (I'm ignoring Dean for the purpose of this, although I would say the same basic argument applies for his candidacy, too), they split the not-for-Kerry vote between them, and thus allow Kerry to win.
But this argument seems flawed to me in several ways. In the first place, it assumes that Edwards gets more from Clark dropping out than Kerry (and, implicitly, that Clark gets more from Edwards dropping out than Kerry, although nobody's suggesting Edwards drop out). But is this really true? Does it really hurt the front-runner for other candidates to drop out? I tend to doubt it. Cast adrift by their candidate, won't most Clark voters (or Dean voters, or Edwards voters), end up voting for the frontrunner?
Especially since a) Clark and Kerry have many of the same selling points, and seem to draw from many of the same types of voters; and b) Edwards and Kerry both tend to get late-deciding voters.
The basic fact is that Kerry will win the nomination unless something happens to knock him from his perch, presumably before March 2. But the best way to keep this thing competitive for longest is to keep as many non-Kerry candidates in the race as possible. Otherwise, Kerry just becomes inevitable more quickly. And if Kerry has a misstep, the whole thing is open again, because his support is really weak.
So: Dean, Clark, Edwards should all stay in and see how it goes. They all take more votes from Kerry than they do from anybody else, so all of them staying in does the most to keep Kerry from running away with it.
So, basically, I don't think there's much chance of anybody overtaking Kerry at this point, but I don't think everybody but Edwards dropping out is particularly the best way to prevent Kerry from becoming the nominee. Especially since Edwards has the least money, so if he falters, it's all over.
So, bring on the conventional wisdom, people!