Edwards quits race but refuses to reveal preferred candidate

John Edwards pulled out of the race for the White House yesterday, saying that it was time to step aside "so that history can blaze its path" and elect a Democrat.

The field has now dramatically narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama just ahead of next week's crucial Super Tuesday contests in 22 states.

Mr Edwards' departure puts pressure on both candidates to perform well in tonight's presidential debate after the acrimony of the last debate.

"With our convictions and a little backbone, we will take back the White House in November" from the Republicans, Mr Edwards promised in an upbeat departure speech made in a section of still devastated New Orleans. He underscored his commitment to ending poverty by speaking about the homeless people he met on the way to New Orleans. He then went to work on a house rebuilding project after his speech.

Mr Edwards was accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, who has terminal cancer, and their children.

He will be bitterly disappointed that he cannot now play kingmaker in the nomination race between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama.

Mr Edwards, who has accumulated dozens of delegates in the race to date, was the party's vice-presidential nominee in the unsuccessful 2004 race. But he finished badly in his home state of South Carolina on Saturday and, despite coming second in Iowa, he was unable to win a single contest. He was expected to attract white voters in a slew of Southern states next Tuesday and who they plump for now could prove crucial for the Obama campaign in particular.

There is no love lost between Mr Edwards and Mrs Clinton, but equally there is no guarantee his supporters, many of them trade union members, will turn to Mr Obama. Both candidates put feelers out to Mr Edwards seeking his endorsement – only to be rebuffed.

Mr Edwards' ambitions were scuppered by a shortage of money and the impossibility of campaigning effectively across the 22 states that vote next Tuesday. The trade unions and other liberal backers of his campaign were also eager to throw their weight behind either the Clinton or Obama campaigns before Super Tuesday.

Always the scrappy underdog of the campaign, with his Southern charm and fiery rhetoric Mr Edwards forced the twin issues of poverty and inequality on to the agenda.

He revealed yesterday that he had extracted promises from Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton that both would make fighting poverty central to their campaigns and would implement programmes should they become president. Mr Obama quickly made a bid for his supporters with a statement praising Mr Edwards for "spending a lifetime fighting to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the struggling". He added: "So while his campaign may end today, the cause of their lives endures for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America," he said.

Mr Edwards, 54, made much of his humble roots as the son of a South Carolina mill worker and he tapped into a deep vein of anger and anxiety among working-class Americans whose jobs have vanished overseas and for whom poverty and destitution is an ever-present threat.

By promising to provide universal health care to all, he forced Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton to make it part of their strategies. Mr Edwards also opposed the war in Iraq (despite his initial enthusiasm for it) and continuously pressed for a withdrawal of US forces.

On the left, Mr Edwards has been admiringly called "the first genuine populist in decades with a serious shot at the presidency".

But on the right, the columnist George Will called him a "synthetic candidate of theatrical bitterness on behalf of America's crushed, groaning majority".

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

FLEX Developer

£45000 - £65000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, ...

SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a global leader in the Oil &a...

SAP Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000. Wakefield

£55000 - £450000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Consultant...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn