John Edwards endorses Barack Obama

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Barack Obama
John Edwards

Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) endorsed former rival Barack Obama (D-IL) on Wednesday, another sign that the party establishment is embracing the likely nominee for the United States 2008 Presidential election even as Hillary Clinton, Obama's opponent, refuses to give up her candidacy.

Edwards appeared at a campaign rally for Obama in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the rally, Edwards addressed Obama's supporters.

"The Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I," he told a crowd of cheering supporters.

"There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership...there is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two - and that man is Barack Obama."

The endorsement comes the day after Clinton defeated Obama by more than 2-to-1 in West Virginia's primary. Edwards received 7% of the vote despite having suspended his campaign in January.

Both Obama and Clinton immediately asked Edwards for his endorsement, but he stayed mum for more than four months. A person close to Edwards, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he wanted to get involved now to begin unifying the party. Obama also signed on to Edwards' poverty initiative, which was a major cause for Edwards in his campaign and since he left. When Edwards suspended his campaign, he asked both Obama and Clinton to make poverty a central issue in the general election and a future Democratic administration, something both agreed to do.

The Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I.

—John Edwards

When he made his decision, Edwards didn't even tell many of his former top advisers because he wanted to make sure that he personally talked to Clinton to give her the news, said a person close to him. Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who has spoken favorably about Clinton's health care plan, did not travel with him to Michigan and is not part of the endorsement.

Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday that "We respect John Edwards, but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over."

According to latest estimates, Barack Obama has a total of 1,887 delegates in CNN's count and 1,884 in the Associated Press's count. Both tallies have Clinton trailing Obama with 1,718 delegates. Obama needs just 139 delegates to reach the 2,026 necessary to clinch the party's nomination.

Edwards, meanwhile, has 19 total pledged delegates who may or may not pledge their support for Obama at the Democratic National Committee's August convention in Denver, Colorado.

We respect John Edwards, but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over.

—Terry McAuliffe, Clinton campaign chairman

Edwards, who is not a superdelegate, said last week that it was "fine" for Clinton to continue making her case, but expressed concern that a continued campaign could damage the party's prospects in November.

Wednesday's endorsement could help Obama reach out to white blue-collar voters, a demographic that Obama has failed to capture, most notably in the recent Pennsylvania and West Virginia primaries. Some political pundits predicted that Edwards' supporters are more likely to lean in Obama's direction.

"The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama will pick up maybe 60 percent of them, and in some places, that makes a huge difference," former presidential adviser David Gergen said in January.