Although Edwards has seemed closer to Obama than to Clinton, universal health care was perhaps Edwards' chief issue on the campaign. (I am not forgetting poverty, but universal health care was more prominent in the campaign.) I believe that Obama's gratuitous attacks on mandates have doomed universal health care, no matter who is elected. That will make it more difficult for Edwards to endorse Obama, even though the two seemed closer to one another than to Clinton on a number of other issues.
No big deal? North Carolina is a state Democrats aren't otherwise going to get. So, in bringing his home state, Edwards is providing something we otherwise won't have. In bringing New York and Illinois, Clinton and Obama are simply carrying states thought to be within the Democratic column anyway.
Prodigy, obviously, you paid no attention to Edwards' campaign in 2004. Remember the "Two Americas" speech? Maybe you heard about it, although you obviously didn't listen to a single syllable. That speech is completely consistent with Edwards' current campaign. Incidentally, how do you know that Edwards convinced Kerry to stick to his pro-war vote? Because self-serving Kerry staffers (furious with Edwards for not stepping aside for Kerry) said that to the N.Y. Times in 2007? Well, try checking what those same staffers were telling the Times in 2004, that Edwards (as VP candidate) was not an influential voice in the campaign.
It's how you define "mudslinging." Saying Clinton accepted money from lobbyists isn't mud-slinging. You agree with the practice it or you don't; it's true or it isn't. Your example of a negative reference to Elizabeth's cancer wouldn't be "mudslinging"; it would be reprehensible but not "mudslinging."
"Even some of the other candidates think Edwards attacks have been personal." Note the word "even." What a surprise that candidates who poll below Edwards have attacked him for "attacking." Dodd's wife and family moved to Iowa for the fun of it? Richardson has spent millions on ads for no reason? The other candidates have motivations of their own (e.g., taking over the #3 position, jockeying for VP or a Cabinet post), as should be obvious.
Both Obama and Edwards began on the offensive. Clinton called Edwards a "mudslinger" (guess he must have brought up Monica Lewinsky), and he was not premitted to respond. Edwards next made a comment about her accepting money from lobbyists and was booed. Then, as Chuck Todd corrected noted (and you did not), Edwards drew back. He had some good moments (answer to Iraq vet's mother) but was given very little time (see Dodd clock). Contrary to your assertion that Obama "cut it out" as the debate progressed, he confronted Clinton about SS, and was booed more loudly than Edwards was.
I do live in NYC, and all I can say is you're getting a real deal on your rent. Rent stabilized apartment? There are regional differences, but be real. You have to look at the statistics on what defines "middle class" in NYC. I don't think you qualify. I don't support Obama's plan, and none of the other Democratic candidates have highlighted reforming SS, except when forced into it by Tim Russert. The point, though, is that Clinton was deceptive in her reference to the middle class. The "real" middle class already is affected by payroll taxes, and Obama's plan (not that I support it) would not affect them one whit.
It's not a crisis. But if Democrats happen to win the Presidency and greatly increase their majorities in Congress, seizing the moment to adjust the system in ways that Democrats prefer wouldn't be a bad idea. (And forget about the bi-partisan commission.) George Bush failed in his attempt to privatize Social Security, but we can't be certain that another (cleverer) Republican President in the future might not be able to carry it off.