Mark Schiefelbein  /  AP
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards greets supporters at a campaign rally in Springfield, Mo., on Monday.
updated 1/29/2008 9:20:38 PM ET 2008-01-30T02:20:38

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards postponed campaign events in Alabama and North Dakota to make a major policy address on poverty Wednesday in New Orleans, where he launched his presidential bid 13 months ago.

Campaign officials said Edwards wants to highlight the fact that President Bush did not focus on New Orleans, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, during his State of the Union address. North Dakota and Alabama are scheduled to vote Feb. 5.

In a news release, the Edwards campaign called poverty "the great moral issue of our time." In recent days, it said, "national discussion of important issues like ending poverty has given way to sniping and personal attacks between the two front-runner candidates. Ending poverty and fighting for the middle class is the cause of John Edwards' life — and he will urge the nation to refocus on this important issue."

Mudcat Saunders, who was campaigning for Edwards in rural Georgia, a Feb. 5 state, said Edwards wanted to refocus his campaign on poverty.

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Advisers said Edwards was continuing his campaign to the 22 states holding nominating contests on Feb. 5, despite losses in the first four contests, in hopes of picking up more delegates. On Saturday, he finished a distant third in his native South Carolina, whose primary he won in 2004.

Some people close to the campaign said Edwards also was disappointed that poverty got little mention in Democratic reactions to President Bush's address, and he sees the New Orleans speech as a chance to refocus attention on the problem.

The insiders said Edwards continues to raise money at a respectable pace, although not at the level of rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The Edwards campaign said he will attend Thursday's Democratic debate in Los Angeles. After speaking in New Orleans on Wednesday, the news release said, Edwards "will volunteer on the Habitat for Humanity project at the Musicians' Village" and then fly to Atlanta to address a Georgia Democratic Party dinner.

Georgia also votes on Feb. 5.

Edwards campaigned Tuesday in Jefferson City, Mo. He told a small crowd that he wants universal health care, a quick end to the Iraq war and economic policies geared toward helping the working and middle classes.

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