DENVER (AP) - Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential
race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered
his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family
hardship that roused voters' sympathies, The Associated Press has
The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of
senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1
p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on
poverty, according to two aides. The decision came after Edwards
lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals
who stole the spotlight from the beginning - Hillary Rodham Clinton
and Barack Obama.
The former North Carolina senator will not immediately endorse
either candidate in what is now a two-person race for the
Democratic nomination, said one adviser, who spoke on condition of
anonymity in advance of the announcement. Both candidates would
welcome Edwards' backing and the support of the 56 delegates he had
Edwards waged a spirited top-tier campaign against the two
better-funded rivals, even as he dealt with the stunning blow of
his wife's recurring cancer diagnosis. In a dramatic news
conference last March, the couple announced that the breast cancer
that she thought she had beaten had returned, but they would
continue the campaign.
Their decision sparked a debate about family duty and public
service. But Elizabeth Edwards remained a forceful advocate for her
husband, and she was often surrounded at campaign events by
well-wishers and emotional survivors cheering her on.
Edwards planned to announce his campaign was ending with his
wife and three children at his side. Then he planned to work with
Habitat for Humanity at the volunteer-fueled rebuilding project
Musicians' Village, the adviser said.
With that, Edwards' campaign will end the way it began 13 months
ago - with the candidate pitching in to rebuild lives in a city
still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards embraced New Orleans as
a glaring symbol of what he described as a Washington that didn't
hear the cries of the downtrodden.
Edwards burst out of the starting gate with a flurry of
progressive policy ideas - he was the first to offer a plan for
universal health care, the first to call on Congress to pull
funding for the war, and he led the charge that lobbyists have too
much power in Washington and need to be reigned in.
The ideas were all bold and new for Edwards personally as well,
making him a different candidate than the moderate Southerner who
ran in 2004 while still in his first Senate term. But the themes
were eventually adopted by other Democratic presidential candidates
- and even a Republican, Mitt Romney, echoed the call for an end to
special interest politics in Washington.
Edwards' rise to prominence in politics came amid just one term
representing North Carolina in the Senate after a career as a trial
attorney that made him millions. He was on Al Gore's short list for
vice president in 2000 after serving just two years in office. He
ran for president in 2004, and after he lost to John Kerry, the
nominee picked him as a running mate.
Elizabeth Edwards first discovered a lump in her breast in the
final days of that losing campaign. Her battle against the disease
caused her husband to open up about another tragedy in their lives
- the death of their teenage son Wade in a 1996 car accident. The
candidate barely spoke of Wade during his 2004 campaign, but he
offered his son's death to answer questions about how he could
persevere when his wife could die.
Edwards made poverty the signature issue of both his
presidential campaigns, and he led a four-day tour to highlight the
issue in July. The tour was the first to focus on the plight of the
poor since Robert F. Kennedy's trip 40 years earlier.
But even as Obama and Clinton collected astonishing amounts of
money that dwarfed his fundraising effort, Edwards maintained a
loyal following in the first voting state of Iowa that made him a
serious contender. He came in second to Obama in Iowa, an
impressive feat of relegating Clinton to third place, before coming
in third in the following three contests.
The loss in South Carolina was especially hard because it was
where he was born and he had won the state in 2004.