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Former vice presidential nominee John Edwards declared his candidacy Thursday for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, saying the United States needs to reestablish its leadership role for an unstable, chaotic world, starting by withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Clad in blue jeans and an open-necked shirt, with his sleeves rolled up, Edwards chose the backyard of a victim of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans's devastated Ninth Ward for his unorthodox announcement. ''We want people in this campaign to actually take action now, not later, not after the next election,'' the former North Carolina senator said, sounding as much like a recruiter as a presidential campaigner.
Edwards, 53, is calling for an increase in community service and cuts in poverty, global warming, and troops in Iraq. He said he made a mistake in voting for a resolution to go to war in Iraq but also noted that he did not conduct the war. He said the Bush administration's leadership in Iraq has been a disaster and that it would be a mistake to send in more troops.
Edwards didn't mention gay rights on Thursday, but during the 2004 campaign both he and running mate John Kerry said they opposed same-sex marriage. Edwards also said he opposed amending the U.S. constitution to ban it, arguing the issue should be left up to the states.
Edwards has been working to build his campaign ever since he and Sen. John Kerry lost a close race to the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004. The campaign could pit Edwards against his former partner on the Democratic ticket. Kerry has not said yet whether he will run, nor have other big names like Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, but Edwards did not wait to find out who will be his competition.
The son of a textile mill worker, Edwards has been on a fast track most of his life. A standout law student who became a stunningly successful trial lawyer and millionaire, Edwards vaulted from nowhere politically into the U.S. Senate and then onto the 2004 Democratic presidential ticket--all in less than six years. (AP, with additional reporting by The Advocate)