WASHINGTON — Two years after his hopes for a Democratic takeover of the White House were narrowly dashed, former vice presidential nominee John Edwards said Thursday that he is making another run at the presidency.
Edwards — who is calling for cuts in poverty, global warming and troops in Iraq — scheduled his kickoff in New Orleans, still devastated from last year’s Hurricane Katrina. He chose the site to highlight his signature concern of the economic disparity that divides America.
“I’m here to announce I’m a candidate for president of the United States,” Edwards told NBC’s “Today Show” Thursday, one of three back-to-back interviews by the candidate on morning news shows. “I’ve reached my own conclusion this is the best way to serve my country.”
Edwards said the difference between his message to voters in 2004 and his 2008 presidential bid is that, “I’ve learned since the last campaign that it’s great to identify a problem ... but the way you change things is by taking action.”
Opposes sending more troops to Iraq
And Iraq is one of the biggest issues facing the country.
“It would be a huge mistake to put a surge of troops into Iraq,” Edwards said on ABC’s “Good Morning America. “It sends exactly the wrong signal. We can maximize our chances for success by making clear we are going to leave Iraq and not stay there forever.”
And the next president must restore America’s leadership in the world, he said.
“It’s absolutely crucial that America re-establish its moral authority and leadership role in the world,” Edward said on CBS “Early Show.”
Edwards’ campaign got a little ahead of itself Wednesday and announced his intentions online a day early. His Web site briefly featured the logo “John Edwards ’08” and its slogan, “Tomorrow begins today” — literally, in this case — before aides quickly removed them.
In his message to supporters, Edwards listed five priorities to change America. Among them: “Guaranteeing health care for every single American,” “Strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty,” “Leading the fight against global warming,” and “Getting America and the world to break our addiction to oil.”
Edwards has been working to build his campaign ever since he and John Kerry lost a close race to the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004.
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The campaign could pit Edwards against his former partner on the Democratic ticket. Kerry has not said yet whether he will run, nor have other big names like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but Edwards did not wait to find out who will be his competition.
He has positioned himself as a serious contender. He’s been strengthening his ties to labor and other Democratic activists behind the scenes, rebuilding a top-notch campaign staff and honing his skills. The efforts have made him the leading candidate in early polls of Iowa Democrats who will get the first say in the nomination fight.
Slideshow: A public life Edwards’ advisers scheduled a six-state announcement tour between Christmas and New Year’s Day with the hopes that news would be slow and he could dominate media coverage. Over three days, Edwards also planned to travel to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and his home state of North Carolina.
Edwards did not cancel his plans because of President Ford’s death. He issued a statement saying he was deeply saddened by the news and calling Ford a “true leader” who bridged partisanship.
“He called on us to never lose faith that we can change America,” Edwards said in a statement e-mailed to reporters that also echoed the theme of his campaign.
Edwards was kicking off his campaign at one of the few homes in the neighborhood that appears close to being habitable. It belongs to Orelia Tyler, 54, who has been living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer in her yard while her home was rebuilt.
Keeping up with Obama, Clinton?
Edwards’ challenge over the next year will be to show that he can keep up with front-runners Clinton and Obama, should they get in the race, in terms of fundraising and support. Unlike officeholders who may run, Edwards does not have a federal campaign account and will have to start raising money from scratch.
He also has hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from his 2004 campaign.
The son of a textile mill worker, Edwards has been on a fast track most of his life despite his up-by-the-bootstraps roots.
A standout law student who became a stunningly successful trial lawyer and millionaire, Edwards vaulted from nowhere politically into the U.S. Senate and then onto the 2004 Democratic presidential ticket — all in less than six years.
In 1998, in his first bid for public office, Edwards defeated incumbent Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., a leading advocate for impeachment of President Clinton.
Edwards began building support for his first presidential bid shortly after arriving in the Senate. He quickly made a name for himself in Congress, using his legal background to help Democratic colleagues navigate the impeachment hearings.
Edwards launched a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2003 and quickly caught the eye of Democratic strategists. Although he won only the South Carolina primary, his skills on the trail, his cheerful demeanor, and his message of “two Americas” — one composed of the wealthy and privileged, and the other of the hardworking common man — excited voters, especially independents and moderate-leaning Democrats.
Edwards’ handsome, youthful appearance also gave him a measure of star quality, one of the reasons Kerry selected Edwards as his running mate.
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