- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — John Edwards ended his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday, pledging to “do everything in my power” to help John Kerry win the White House.

“And I ask you to join me in this cause,” he told cheering supporters.

Mr. Edwards said he was suspending his campaign, signaling an end to his active effort to gain the presidency after winning only one state out of 30 to hold primaries and caucuses so far.

The North Carolina senator has announced plans not to seek re-election to Congress when his term expires at the end of the year. But already, there is speculation that Mr. Kerry might tap him for a running mate in the fall campaign.

That would have met with approval from supporters gathered in a crowded high school gymnasium where Mr. Edwards formally ended his quest. “Kerry-Edwards” read a scattering of signs held aloft in the crowd, a suggested ticket for the fall campaign.

Mr. Edwards, who until recently had been depicting Mr. Kerry as a Washington insider unable to bring about needed change, praised his Senate colleague unstintingly. He said the Massachusetts senator had battled for “more jobs, better health care, cleaner air, cleaner water, a safer world” and more.

“They are the causes of our party. They are the causes of America and they are the reason we will prevail,” he said.

While Mr. Kerry is the likely nominee and Howard Dean was briefly the front-runner in the race, Mr. Edwards had staying power with an optimistic message and a style that avoided criticism of his rivals.

Over and over, he pledged to end what he called a society of “two Americas,” one for the rich, the other for the rest of the country, a message that struck a chord with many voters. They consistently gave him high marks for his positive message, and his approval ratings topped the field.

Mr. Edwards came home yesterday to announce his decision at the Raleigh high school that two of his children attended, including his son Wade, who died in 1996 at age 16 in a car accident.

Former President Bill Clinton called Mr. Edwards yesterday morning to applaud his decision and congratulate him for the way he conducted his campaign, said Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.

Asked whether Mr. Edwards wants to be Mr. Kerry’s running mate, she said, “His focus between now and November is to help John Kerry get elected.”

Mr. Edwards, 50, became a millionaire as a plaintiffs’ trial lawyer, making most of his money in medical malpractice cases. His 1998 election to the Senate was his first bid for public office.

Mr. Kerry has said he will “try to find the best person” as his running mate. While remaining noncommittal on whom that might be, Mr. Kerry said, “There is no doubt John Edwards brings a compelling voice to our party.”

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the notion of a Kerry-Edwards ticket. The American Tort Reform Association asserted yesterday that choosing Edwards would be a liability to Kerry’s race for the White House.

“Senator Edwards’ campaign has been funded by personal injury lawyers who would drive a pro-litigation, anti-civil justice reform agenda,” association President Sherman Joyce said. “Kerry should be wary of aligning himself with someone who is beholden to these Learjet lawyers.”

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