WASHINGTON — Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards intends to enter the 2008 race for the White House, two Democratic officials said Saturday.
Edwards, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for six years, plans to make the campaign announcement late this month from the New Orleans neighborhood hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina last year and slow to recover from the storm.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Edwards’ announcement.
Edwards chose a stark backdrop for a campaign expected to focus on ways to build “One America” and bridge the economic inequality clearly evident in the still devastated Lower Ninth Ward. His campaign is likely to emphasize ways to unite the country and would mark an evolution from his 2004 campaign stump speech that focused on the “Two Americas” of haves and have-nots.
Edwards also plans to travel from New Orleans through the four early presidential nominating states — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina — as part of an announcement tour between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Among Democrats, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are drawing the most attention almost two years before the actual vote.
In a good position to run
Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in Iowa. He was a top fundraiser in the race for the nomination in 2004 before he became Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s running mate.
Since the Democrats’ loss to President Bush, Edwards has worked to build support for a repeat presidential bid. He has a retooled agenda that is more openly progressive and has spent time building relationships with labor leaders and traveling overseas to build his foreign policy credentials beyond his one term in the Senate.
Edwards’ spokesman, David Ginsberg, would not confirm or deny that Edwards planned to announce he would run in 2008.
Ginsberg said Edwards would make an announcement about his future when he is ready.
Word leaked about Edwards’ plans just hours after Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced he would not seek the presidency in 2008. Bayh had been a leading candidate in early fundraising and, like Edwards, based much of his appeal on his electability. Bayh and Edwards, friends who went running together daily when they were in the Senate, each won election in Republican-leaning states.
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Bayh and some other hopefuls have struggled to build their name recognition against the drawing power of Clinton and Obama. Edwards, however, does not have that problem.
Well-known from 2004
He is well known from the 2004 campaign and his profile has risen this year as he and his wife, Elizabeth, went on nationwide tours to promote their books.
A poll of Iowa Democrats that was published Thursday in the Des Moines Register showed Edwards with 36 percent support, more than Clinton’s 16 percent and Obama’s 13 percent combined.
Edwards’ campaign plans include an aggressive fundraising effort to prove that he belongs in the top tier of contenders. Because he currently does not hold federal office, Edwards does not have a war chest like some of his rivals. In fact, he has several hundred thousands of dollars of debt from his 2004 presidential campaign.
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