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Edwards Endorses Obama

In this Monday, Jan. 21, 2008 file photo, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, greets former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., before a Democratic debate sponsored by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Associated Press)

Update 6:36 p.m.
By Peter Slevin and Anne E. Kornblut
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Vanquished Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards will endorse Sen. Barack Obama tonight, giving the Illinois senator a boost after a bad loss in West Virginia.

Edwards is scheduled to appear with Obama at a rally here in Grand Rapids due to begin at approximately 6:15 p.m., the Obama campaign announced.

Edwards, a former senator and former vice presidential candidate from North Carolina, had long been courted by Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, but refused to choose.

But with Obama holding a nearly insurmountable lead in pledged delegates and the popular vote, Edwards decided to get off the fence.

His endorsement comes at a moment when Obama is struggling to win among the white working class voters targeted by Edwards with his populist pitch.

Edwards's campaign manager David Bonior, a former Michigan congressman, endorsed Obama in recent days and appeared at a campaign event in Warren, Mich., on Wednesday.

The impact of Edwards's endorsement on the Democratic primary season voting will be limited, with only five contests remaining. But it is intended to send another signal to Clinton that, barring an extraordinary development, her race is all but over.

Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe rebuffed that idea. "We respect John Edwards, but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over," he said in a statement.

So how exactly did former Sen. John Edwards decide to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination?

In an interview last week, Edwards strongly hinted that he was leaning that way -- in part because of his embodiment of Edwards's signature issue of poverty.

Edwards praised both Clinton and Obama for caring about poverty. "I think they're both very strong on the issue ... and Sen. Clinton has been working on this for decades, and particularly focused on children," Edwards said. But poverty, he added, has been "central to Senator Obama's life."

In the same conversation last Friday, Edwards, who dropped out of the campaign earlier this year, said it was apparent that Obama was running away with the nomination. Asked why he had decided not to endorse either Clinton or Obama, Edwards replied: "I haven't -- but I might."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 14, 2008; 5:22 PM ET
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