Does Iraq make Edwards the anti-Hillary/Feingold?

Former N.C. Senator and VP candidate John Edwards' recent announcement that his support of the Iraq war was "a mistake" continues to generate big press, especially here in North Carolina.

Veteran political reporter Rob Christensen had a good piece in yesterday's Raleigh News & Observer, which, after quoting a few folks like myself, gets to the heart of where I think Edwards is positioning himself for 2008:

Chuck Todd, editor of The Hotline, a Washington-based Internet political newsletter, said Edwards might be positioning himself to the left of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton to pick up the anti-war vote. Todd said Edwards may also be trying to prevent Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., from emerging as the anti-war candidate as Dean did during the last presidential race.

"His viability ... is going to have to be sort of both anti-Hillary and run to his left," Todd said.

As I argued here and in The Nation, Iraq really was the key sticking point for Edwards in terms of generating excitement among progressives. I think many thought his domestic message and agenda was the best on offer among presidential candidates in the 2003-2004 campaign, but Iraq sunk him. Dean filled the void.

But Hillary Clinton's stance on Iraq definitely leaves a large swath of political turf to her left for other candidates to capitalize on. As she recently told the Village Voice (and which peace protester Cindy Sheehan seized on):

My bottom line is that I don't want their sons to die in vain. ... I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal ... I don't think it's the right time to withdraw.

This puts her way to the right of Republicans in Congress, who are now asking for a clear timetable for Iraq withdrawal. I also agree with Hotline that Edwards is trying to defuse a Feingold insurgency.

But this is 2005. We have three years to witness how this all plays out.