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Edwards Ends Second Run for White House

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

For the Democrats, it's down to two. Former Senator John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race today and he made the announcement in the same place he launched his campaign, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The location was chosen, obviously, to highlight a main theme in Edwards' campaign - poverty. And as he's saying to his supporters and urged his party to fight for the disadvantaged, Edwards refused to endorse either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Coming up, we'll talk about the voters Edwards attracted and how they might be targeted.

First, here's NPR's Carrie Kahn from New Orleans.

(Soundbite of applause)

CARRIE KAHN: With his wife and three children, John Edwards climbed upon a stage erected in front of dozens of homes draped with American flags. The houses are being built by volunteers in one of New Orleans' most devastated neighborhoods.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina): Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. But I want to say this to everyone - this son of a mill worker is going to be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

KAHN: Edwards said he called both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and received their pledges that ending poverty would be a central theme of their campaigns.

Mr. EDWARDS: America's hour of transformation is upon us. It may be hard to believe when we have bullets flying in Baghdad; it may be hard to believe when it cost $58 to fill your car up with gas. It's hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

KAHN: Edwards was addressing his supporters, but he could very well have been talking about his own campaign. Poverty as a central theme failed to rally the electorate as much as Edwards had hoped. He was always at a funding disadvantage against Clinton and Obama. He expended much time and energy and money in the Iowa caucuses but could finish no better than second. And in South Carolina, his birth state, and the only primary carried four years ago, he finished a weak third. On his way to make his announcement today, Edwards stopped by a highway underpass to talk with hundreds of homeless camped out in tents. One woman begged him to keep fighting for the disadvantaged. In his final remarks today, Edwards urged his supporters and the Democratic Party to keep fighting for the poor in America.

Mr. EDWARDS: Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible because it's time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one. Thank you. God bless you, and let's go to work.

KAHN: Many supporters in the crowd like Chris Rimes(ph) of Monroe, Louisiana, said they thought they were coming to see a campaign event, not the end of Edwards' candidacy.

Mr. CHRIS RIMES: I'm really disappointed but, you know, I kind of knew it was a long shot to begin with when I first started to volunteer for the campaign, so.

KAHN: Rimes said he backed Edwards because of the former senator's record on labor. He said he didn't know who he would support now.

But Lila Murphy(ph), who was in town to help build houses, said the smaller field is good for her candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Ms. LILA MURPHY: I'm actually glad that they're starting to drop out. And this way, you know, it won't (unintelligible) up the votes, you know.

KAHN: Edwards declined to endorse either candidate and did not answer questions about whether he would like to be considered for a vice presidential slot. As for the 56 national convention delegates that John Edwards has won, most will be free to support any candidate of their choosing.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.