LINK: John Edwards Endorses Barack Obama
At a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday evening, John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama, who was on the stage with him, to be the Democratic nominee for president.
Sounding a theme of a nation divided into parts by walls, Mr. Edwards said, “The reason I am here tonight is that Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I.”
Mr. Edwards then went on to say, “There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to tear down that wall and make one America, Barack Obama.”
Mr. Obama, who had introduced Mr. Edwards as “one of the great leaders we have in the Democratic Party, ” responded by saying he was grateful to him for coming to Michigan and giving his endorsement.
Mr. Obama also noted how Mr. Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, had emphasized health care as an issue that is of primary concern, then said it would be a major issue in his administration.
The endorsement comes at a time when the appeal of Mr. Obama appears to be lagging among white, blue-collar voters, a group to which Mr. Edwards openly appealed.
Mr. Edwards’s endorsement also brings in tow 19 convention delegates he won in early party selections. He could certainly urge them to give their support to Mr. Obama, though they would not be obligated by party rules to do so.
Mr. Edwards had campaigned for the Democratic nomination for 13 months before dropping out of the race in January. He had been the first major Democrat to declare his candidacy.
Although Mr. Edwards had declined to endorse either of his rivals, there were signs that his political positions were more closely aligned with those of Mr. Obama than Mrs. Clinton. Most of Mr. Edwards’s former staff and advisers, including David E. Bonior, his former national campaign chairman, declared their support for Mr. Obama after Mr. Edwards left the race.
Mr. Edwards sought to make economic and social issues the center of his campaign and called for efforts to combat poverty in the United States. He announced his candidacy in New Orleans some 16 months after Hurricane Katrina struck and, echoed his 2004 bid for the Democratic nomination, by seeking to cast himself as the populist candidate and focusing on economic issues and job creation. He gained early support from a number of labor unions.
Mr. Edwards’s wife, Elizabeth, campaigned actively on his behalf, focusing on access to health care as her primary issue. Mrs. Edwards, who had been diagnosed with cancer during the 2004 campaign, said during this campaign that it had spread but had stopped.
Mr. Edwards alienated some supporters by abandoning his approach in the 2004 campaign in which he refused to criticize his rivals by name. After running unsuccessfully as John Kerry’s vice presidential running mate, Mr. Edwards began positioning himself for a second run at the presidency.
Early election results were disappointing for Mr. Edwards, who could not manage to gain headway against Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. He came in third in the South Carolina primary, the state in which he was born and which he won during the 2004 presidential primary.
He announced his withdrawal from the race in the same place he began his campaign — against a backdrop of New Orleans houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Edwards did not make an endorsement at that time, but said both candidates had told him they would continue his theme of ending poverty as part of their campaigns.
The endorsement ended months of speculation over Mr. Edwards’s preference in the Democratic nominating contest, during which he mostly stayed silent and close to home in Chapel Hill with his wife, Elizabeth.
But in recent days, Mr. Edwards had made his choice all but obvious, giving a series of television interviews hinting that he was close to endorsing Mr. Obama, who last week he called “clearly the nominee at this point.”
And it was little surprise to close observers of Mr. Edwards on the campaign trail in the past year, when he regularly attacked so-called establishment politicians like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and teamed with Mr. Obama against her in debates.
Throughout his second bid for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Edwards clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton, criticizing her for accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists, a practice that he fiercely opposed.
And much of his campaign pitch centered on the notion that Washington politicians have become corrupted by the influence of lobbyists for drug companies, oil companies and other corporate interests.
“You can’t just trade corporate Republicans for corporate Democrats,” he told audiences frequently, an attack aimed at Mrs. Clinton.
But aides to Mr. Edwards said despite his personal admiration and respect for Mr. Obama, he was concerned about Mr. Obama’s experience and readiness for the job.
And he had another consideration: how to position himself for a job in the next president’s administration. As Mr. Edwards saw it, aides said, Mrs. Clinton seemed to be more likely than Mr. Obama to win the nomination.
That was before the nominating contests on Feb. 5, however, when Mr. Obama came out virtually tied with Mrs. Clinton; and the subsequent primaries and caucuses that Mr. Obama won decisively, giving him a significant advantage over Mrs. Clinton in the delegate count.
Mr. Edwards has carefully played down his aspirations for an administration role. In an interview in January, he said he would not accept a vice-presidential spot or Cabinet position. “No, absolutely not,” he said, shaking his head emphatically when asked.
But privately, he told aides that he would consider the role of vice president, and favored the position of attorney general, which would appeal to his experience of decades spent in courtrooms as a trial lawyer in North Carolina; and his desire to follow in the footsteps of Robert F. Kennedy, one of his heroes.
Not long after Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race, John C. Moylan, a close friend and adviser who ran his South Carolina campaign, said Mr. Edwards he would consider a Cabinet spot. “You don’t run for president unless you want to work in the administration,” Mr. Moylan said.
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have both heavily courted Mr. Edwards’s endorsement, calling him frequently and sending messages through surrogates. Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton secretly met at his home in Chapel Hill in March; a meeting with Mr. Obama, scheduled several days later, was rescheduled because of intense media attention once news of the two meetings became known.
Since dropping out of the race, he has stressed his devotion to the issue of poverty, and promoted his new antipoverty initiative, Half in Ten. He extracted promises from both candidates to focus on poverty as president, and Mrs. Clinton, in a clear gesture to Mr. Edwards, said she would create a Cabinet-level “poverty czar” if she is elected president.
Even before Mr. Edwards withdrew from the presidential race, he began lengthy discussions with his advisers about whom he should endorse. His top aides were split: among them, Joe Trippi, a senior adviser, strongly favored Mr. Obama; Harrison Hickman, his longtime friend and pollster, argued for a Clinton endorsement.
But the kinship between the two campaigns has become most plain by the migration of most of Mr. Edwards’s former staff members and aides to the Obama campaign.
Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton campaign chairman, responded to the endorsement: "We respect John Edwards," he said in a statement, "but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over."
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