Obama Praises Edwards, Hopes for His Backing
By Alec MacGillis
DENVER -- Barack Obama showered John Edwards with praise today at the outset of a huge rally here, saying his former rival for the Democratic nomination's "campaign may have ended, but his cause lives on for those who believe we can achieve one America."
"John has spent a lifetime fighting to give a voice to the voiceless and hope for the struggling," Obama told a crowd of 9,000 gathered inside the University of Denver basketball arena, with several thousands more gathered in overflow areas elsewhere on the campus. "At a time when our politics is too focused on who's up and who's down he's consistently made us focus on who matters -- the New Orleans child without a home, the West Virginia miner without a job, the families who live in that other America that is not seen or heard or talked about in Washington. John and Elizabeth Edwards believe deeply that two Americans can become one."
Not surprisingly, Obama made no mention the criticisms he has leveled at Edwards over the course of the campaign -- most notably, his charge that Edwards came to his liberal presidential campaign platform only after voting differently on a slew of issues in the Senate, from Iraq to bankruptcy reform to the Patriot Act. Obama is hoping to win Edwards's endorsement, banking on the overlap in their anti-establishment message and critique of Hillary Clinton. But Edwards has so far signaled that he will be making no immediate endorsement.
Obama campaign officials say Edwards called twice in the past day -- first, last night, to say that he was considering leaving the race and to encourage Obama to speak more about Edwards' favorite topic, poverty. He then called Obama again this morning to confirm his departure.
Obama officials say their emphasis now is not just on winning Edwards' backing but on winning over supporters, both prominent and rank and file, who were behind the former North Carolina senator. They dispute the suggestion that Edwards' departure will help Clinton in southern states where white men who were leaning toward Edwards will now swing toward Clinton; Obama officials note that Obama did nearly as well as Clinton among white men in the South Carolina primary, according to the exit polls.
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