Image: John Edwards
Sara D. Davis  /  AP
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards poses for a photo with Shareef Alshinnawi at the Annual Young Democrats Conference in Research Triangle Park, N.C., on Saturday.
updated 3/29/2008 10:53:43 PM ET 2008-03-30T02:53:43

Former Sen. John Edwards, in his first public speech since dropping his White House bid two months ago, praised Democratic rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on Saturday, but declined to endorse either candidate.

"I have a very high opinion of both of them," Edwards said at the Young Democrats of North Carolina convention. "We would be blessed as a nation to have either one of them as president."

Both Obama and Clinton have repeatedly lobbied Edwards for his endorsement, flying into Chapel Hill to meet with him privately and touting his accomplishments on the campaign trail. Before leaving the race, Edwards won a promise from both Clinton and Obama to make ending poverty central to their ongoing presidential campaigns.

On Saturday, Edwards pointed out the historical nature of both of their campaigns and said both were better suited in carrying forward his campaign platform than Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain.

"We are blessed, first, to have an extraordinarily talented African American who could be the next president of the United States," Edwards said. "There's no way to contest the fact that he's inspired this country."

"And Senator Clinton, who has served America for so long and so well, and has shown so much strength and leadership, has really forged an extraordinarily historic campaign as a woman for the nomination and for the presidency."

Pressed by reporters to detail any endorsement plans, Edwards declined to even say if he would endorse a candidate before North Carolina's May 6 primary.

"When I have something to say, I'll let you know," he said.

Though the Young Democrats convention focused primarily on state races, both Obama and Clinton sent surrogates to represent them. Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker gave a speech on behalf of the Illinois senator while Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, was scheduled to make an appearance later Saturday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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