Hat Tip: By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press
Democrat John Edwards is endorsing former rival Barack Obama, fresh signs of the party establishment embracing the likely nominee even as Hillary Rodham Clinton refuses to give up her increasingly long-shot candidacy.
Edwards was to appear with Obama in Grand Rapids, Mich., as Obama campaigns in a critical general election battleground state, the Obama campaign said Wednesday.
The endorsement comes the day after Clinton defeated Obama by more than 2-to-1 in West Virginia. The loss highlighted Obama’s work to win over the “Hillary Democrats” — white, working-class voters who also supported Edwards in large numbers before he exited the race.
Clinton campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe said in a written statement, “We respect John Edwards, but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over.”
Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and the 2004 vice presidential nominee, dropped out of the race in late January.
Both Obama and Clinton immediately asked Edwards for his endorsement, but he stayed mum for more than four months, even as the campaign focused on his home state in recent weeks.
Edwards considered making an endorsement in the weeks after leaving the campaign. People who talked to Edwards privately at the time said he was concerned about Obama’s readiness for the presidency and his electability. Clinton worked harder to woo both Edwards and his wife and impressed them both, those Edwards confidants said, but Edwards would have had a hard time endorsing her after criticizing her so much during the primary.
A person close to Edwards, speaking on condition of anonymity because the individual wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, said the former lawmaker wanted to get involved now to begin unifying the party. Obama also signed on to Edwards’ anti-poverty initiative, which he launched Tuesday with the goal of reducing poverty in the United States by half within 10 years.
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 the person close to him. Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, who has said she thinks Clinton has the superior health care plan, did not travel with him to Michigan and is not part of the endorsement.
John Edwards, the real champion of working class voters, doesn’t want to be associated with the blatant racism of West Virginia Democrats and for whatever its worth, and it ain’t worth much anymore, he’d rather be associated with Obama. Friends of mine have breathlessly told me of Edwards desire to get back in the game and win the second spot on the ticket. I told them that its too little, too late. He should have done it back in February before Super Tuesday. It means nothing now because the fight is all but over. He will not be considered by Obama because he did nothing to merit consideration.