Edwards left the presidential race Wednesday, ending a
scrappy underdog bid that tried to put progressive politics
in the spotlight.
The decision came
after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating
contests so far to rivals who got more attention from the
beginning: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
White House candidate made the announcement at an event in
New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty.
"It's time for me to step aside so that history can
blaze its path," he said.
''He just said it
was time to get out,'' said Dave ''Mudcat'' Saunders,
Edwards's rural affairs adviser. ''I still don't like
walking away, but it was John's decision.''
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.
Clinton said Wednesday that Edwards called to inform her
about his decision.
reporters Edwards had exited the race in a ''classy'' way.
''I think he's run a great campaign,'' said Obama, who
aides said spoke with Edwards Tuesday night and asked
for his endorsement.
Four in 10
Edwards supporters said their second choice in the race is
Clinton, while a quarter prefer Obama, according to an
Associated Press-Yahoo poll conducted late this month.
Both Clinton and Obama would welcome Edwards' backing
and the support of the 56 delegates to the Democratic
convention he had collected.
impact of Edwards's withdrawal will be six additional
delegates for Obama, giving him a total of 187, and four
more for Clinton, giving her 253. A total of 2,025
delegates are needed to secure the Democratic
Edwards won 26
delegates in the Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina
contests. Under party rules, 10 of those delegates will be
automatically dispersed among Obama and Clinton, based
on their vote totals in those respective contests. The
remaining 16 remain pledged to Edwards, meaning his
campaign will have a say in naming them.
superdelegates -- mainly party and elected officials who
automatically attend the convention and can support whomever
they choose -- had already switched from Edwards to
Obama before news of Edwards's withdrawal from the
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 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.
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.
his campaign was ending with his wife and three
children at his side. Afterward he planned to work with the
Habitat for Humanity housing charity at a New Orleans
rebuilding project, the adviser said.
Edwards's campaign will end the way it began 13 months ago
-- with the him 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 did not hear the cries of the
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 in one of the few Western
countries without it, 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
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's 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 the nomination to John Kerry,
Kerry picked him as a running mate.
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.
Even as Obama and
Clinton collected astonishing amounts of money that
dwarfed his fund-raising 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
The loss in South
Carolina on Saturday was especially hard because it was
where he was born and he had won the state in 2004. (AP,
with additional reporting by The Advocate)