John Edwards to Quit Presidential Race

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 01/30/2008 - 12:59pm.

John Edwards will end his presidential bid today, a source close to his campaign confirmed, effectively narrowing the Democratic field to two contenders less than a week before the Super Tuesday round of primaries.

 

The former North Carolina senator is scheduled to speak in New Orleans this afternoon, an appearance originally billed as an anti-poverty speech but now expected to serve as the platform for ending a White House run that has been five years in the making.

Edwards, 54, the party's vice presidential nominee in 2004, has failed to win any of the Democratic primaries or caucuses so far, narrowly capturing second place in Iowa and finishing a distant third in his native South Carolina. However he has accumulated dozens of delegates in the process, and his backing could prove important to the remaining candidates.

Upon Edwards' withdrawal, the race between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) becomes historic, guaranteeing that a major party will nominate someone other than a white man for the nation's highest office. They will debate each other head-to-head for the first time on Thursday in California.

Former senator Mike Gravel is still running but has not attracted a wide following and has not participated in recent debates.

According to aides, Edwards will not endorse Clinton or Obama today and has no plans to weigh in for either candidate in the immediate future.

Edwards' withdrawal comes on a day when the nominating processes of both major parties drew into sharper focus. Following a third place finish in Florida's Republican primary yesterday, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is expected to quit the race as well. That leaves Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee battling for the GOP nomination.

Edwards launched his campaign a year ago, also in New Orleans, where the slow rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina formed a fitting symbol for the issues around which he built his campaign. He focused on issues of poverty and economic inequality, couched in language of the "two Americas."

In summoning the media back to New Orleans today, he referred to poverty as "the great moral issue of our time."

His bid for the White House included a compelling personal drama as well, when he and his wife Elizabeth announced in March that the campaign would continue despite the return of her breast cancer.

According to a tally kept by the Associated Press, Edwards has accumulated 56 delegates to the Democratic convention in Denver, of nearly 500 awarded in the first primaries and caucuses.

After Saturday's disappointing finish in South Carolina, he said he was buoyed by recent fundraising successes and intended to continue his battle through Super Tuesday, even launching an ad blitz in 10 states participating in the mega-primary. As of yesterday, Edwards put out a full campaign agenda, including a scheduled address to the Georgia Democratic party this evening and participation in the Democratic debate in California tomorrow.

Though aides remained surprised at the decision, Edwards acknowledged that he was facing an uphill battle.

"To win the nomination, I've got to win a contest, of course," Edwards told the AP after South Carolina. "At some point, we have to get to the place where either the thing is deadlocked, which is a real possibility, or we're accumulating more delegates."

Uncertainty about his viability has built in recent weeks, as he failed to make inroads on his chief rivals. Last weekend, as fundraisers for Obama and Clinton trolled for support at a convention of trial lawyers -- a group that has raised millions of dollars for Edwards -- some of the Edwards faithful wondered quietly whether he might be offered a prime cabinet position in an eventual Democratic administration.

"I sure would hope there will be a role for him," said C. Gibson Vance, a Montgomery, Ala., trial lawyer who has been a longtime friend and supporter of Edwards. "He would be a heck of a tough attorney general. Think about it."

Staff writers Debbi Wilgoren and Peter Whoriskey contributed to this report.

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 01/30/2008 - 12:59pm.