IT has always seemed likely that John Edwards would be squeezed out of the Democratic presidential candidacy contest once Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama engaged each other. His decision yesterday to withdraw raises the interesting question of whom his supporters will choose to back from now on.

Senator Obama jumped in quickly with a tribute to Edwards for having been “the voice of the voiceless” that may have been just a touch too effusive. The withdrawal of Rudy Giuliani from the field of Republican contenders after his poor showing in Tuesday's Florida primary was inevitable but nonetheless remarkable. Last year in national polls he was in the lead among Republican runners despite his distinctly unusual support of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control. However, his decision to absent himself from the first three primaries of the campaign in order to focus on Florida proved to be a serious mistake; it kept him out of the news as John McCain and Mitt Romney scored early victories and it gave an impression of “big city” arrogance. He has said that he will now back John McCain. The thinning out of the candidates is welcome ahead of next Tuesday's “super-Tuesday” voting in several of America's most important States, including California, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, New York and New Jersey. In this fascinating contest, it is impossible to say whether things will be clearer or more confused next Wednesday morning.