updated 4/28/2007 4:23:36 PM ET 2007-04-28T20:23:36

The United States has lost its global standing during George W. Bush’s presidency and needs a Democratic commander in chief to restore America’s place in the world, Democrats running for the White House said Saturday.

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“We are today internationally and domestically a nation that is no longer a leader,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of three candidates to address a convention of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, said the world needs to see that “America can be a force for good.”

“What their perception is that America is a bully and we only care about our short-term interests,” Edwards said. “The starting place is to end the bleeding sore that is the war in Iraq.”

Richardson, Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said they would make ending the war a priority.

“The American people are looking for us as Democrats,” said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “They’re looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America’s place in the world.”

Biden said the country’s other problems cannot be solved until the U.S. successfully deals with Iraq.

Most of the major Democratic contenders were heading to San Diego to address delegates at the annual state Democratic Party convention. Only Biden was skipping the event to campaign in South Carolina throughout the weekend.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was set to speak first in San Diego Saturday, followed by Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Edwards and Richardson were scheduled to speak Sunday.

Four years ago, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — then a little-known figure in the Democratic field — brought delegates to their feet at the state party convention with his fiery denunciation of the Iraq war. His rivals at the time, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who eventually won the nomination, were loudly booed for defending their 2002 vote to authorize the war.

Candidates of both parties have always spent considerable time in California, primarily to mine the state for campaign cash. But as one of many large states holding its primary next Feb. 5, California may also play a more influential role in the electoral process.

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