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Edwards gives long-awaited endorsement to Obama

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080514/ap_on_el_pr/obama_edwards Edwards gives long-awaited endorsement to Obama By CHUCK BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer 7
    Message 1 of 1 , May 14, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080514/ap_on_el_pr/obama_edwards

      Edwards gives long-awaited endorsement to Obama

      By CHUCK BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer 7 minutes
      ago

      GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - 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.

      David "Mudcat" Saunders, a chief adviser for Edwards
      on rural affairs during his presidential campaign,
      said the timing of the endorsement couldn't be better
      given Obama's resounding loss in West Virginia on
      Tuesday.

      "For Barack Obama, I think he ought to kiss Johnny
      Edwards on the lips to kill this 41-point loss," he
      added. "The story is not going to be the 41-point
      loss. It's going to be Edwards' endorsement."

      Edwards said in the past week that Obama would likely
      be the party's presidential nominee and that Clinton
      must be careful not to damage the party's prospects in
      November as she continues her campaign.

      Edwards waged a scrappy underdog campaign for the
      Democratic nomination, always outshone by the historic
      nature of Obama possibly being the first black nominee
      and Clinton the first woman. But Edwards was
      considered their strongest contender, even as he
      balanced the rigors of the campaign with the personal
      blow of Elizabeth's returning breast cancer.

      Edwards promoted progressive policy ideas and came in
      second to Obama in Iowa before coming in third in the
      following three contests and dropping out in New
      Orleans, the location a reminder of his attention to
      poverty.

      Obama has a total of 1,887 delegates, leaving him just
      139 delegates short of the 2,026 needed to clinch the
      nomination. Clinton has 1,718 delegates, according to
      the latest tally by The Associated Press.

      Edwards has 19 pledged delegates won in three states:
      Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Most of the
      those delegates have already been selected, meaning
      they are technically free to support whomever they
      choose at the party's national convention, regardless
      of Edwards' endorsement.

      ___

      Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler and Stephen
      Ohlemacher in Washington and Gary D. Robertson in
      Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report
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