Edwards, Giuliani drop presidential bids
31 January 2008
WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards quit his bid for his party’s nomination on Wednesday, while former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani dropped out of the race on the Republican side.
The withdrawals by Edwards and Giuliani narrowed the field to two leading candidates in each party heading into voting next week in more than 20 states that could decide both major-party nominees.
Edwards, 54, has consistently trailed frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in January’s state-by-state contests to determine the centre-left Democratic candidate in the 4 November general election.
"It’s time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path," Edwards said, standing with his wife, Elizabeth, in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he launched his campaign last year.
Edwards, who championed the fight against poverty in his campaign, shed no light on whether he would endorse either of his former rivals. Clinton and Obama, who are running neck-and-neck, are expected to seek his backing to help win over his supporters.
Edwards said he spoke with both of the candidates earlier Wednesday and won assurances that they will make combating poverty an important theme of their campaigns.
"They have both pledged to me and, more importantly, through me to America that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency," Edwards said.
The end of Giuliani’s candidacy comes after a distant third place finish in voting Tuesday in Florida, a state that Giuliani, 63, had hoped would propel him back to the frontrunner status he enjoyed early in the campaign last year.
A disappointed Giuliani told reporters aboard his campaign plane that he was bowing out of the race and will endorse Arizona Senator John McCain, whose Florida victory solidified his standing as the centre-right Republican frontrunner.
"I made it clear who I thought the other best candidate was," Giuliani said.
Reports said that influential California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was also set to endorse McCain.
McCain hailed Giuliani as a "national hero" for steering New York through the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, and said that Giuliani would be his "strong right arm and partner" in the campaign going forward.
"I want to thank him as we wage this struggle for the presidency of the United States," McCain said, with Giuliani standing at his side at a joint event in California.
Giuliani chose to skip campaigning in the previous five states to focus on winning Florida. But his strategy backfired as McCain and Romney capitalised on early victories to outmanoeuvre the former prosecutor in Florida, where he received only 15 percent of the vote.
McCain edged out former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney with 36 percent of the vote to the latter’s 31 percent.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee took 13 percent of the Republican vote in Florida and will need strong showing on Super Tuesday to continue his campaign, which is running out of money.
The two sparred again Wednesday night in the last Republican debate before so-called Super Tuesday. Their main argument concerned allegations by McCain that Romney favoured a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
"I have never, ever supported a specific timetable" for withdrawing troops, Romney said, accusing McCain of "dirty tricks."
"It’s simply wrong, and the senator knows it," Romney said. "I will not pull our troops out until we have brought success in Iraq."
McCain, who accused Romney of following a Democratic line on Iraq, said: "I unequivocally put my career on the line and said we had to support the surge."
Edwards failed to win any of the six states where voters have cast ballots so far, including a disappointing third place on Saturday in his native South Carolina. The former trial lawyer made his best showing by edging Clinton for second place in the Iowa caucus on 3 January.
But he was unable to gain steam against the hype surrounding the campaigns of the two senators. Obama is seeking to become the first African-American president, while Clinton would be the first woman to win the White House.
Edwards managed to stay in the campaign into the days leading up to Super Tuesday even though he was well outspent by Clinton and Obama. His wife, Elizabeth, is suffering a recurrence of breast cancer but has been resilient in supporting her husband on the campaign trail.
[Copyright dpa 2008]
Subject: US elections, Super Tuesday