Edwards to Endorse Obama

Barack Obama has gotten one of the most sought-after endorsements of the Democratic primary race. John Edwards will join Obama at a rally Wednesday night and announce his support. Edwards' endorsement has been the object of intense wooing — by both the Obama and Clinton campaigns.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Barack Obama has gotten one of the most sought-after endorsements of the Democratic primary race. John Edwards will join Obama at a rally this evening and announce his support. Edwards' endorsement has been the object of much speculation and intense wooing by both Obama and Clinton campaigns.

NPR's Don Gonyea is on the Obama campaign bus in Western Michigan. He joins us now. Don, John Edwards has been pretty coy about who he voted for and who he plan to endorse. What does his endorsement mean at this stage in the campaign?

DON GONYEA: Well, it's not clear exactly what it means at this stage because, again, it does come very late in the campaign. We have reached a phase, Michele, where everybody is doing a math. And we've all been reporting about what a steep uphill climb Senator Clinton has if she hopes to somehow takes the nomination away, the nomination that at this point Barack Obama seems to be on cruise control in these final weeks of the campaign, you know, locking up not just pledged delegates but superdelegate after superdelegate after superdelegate as well.

That said, this is still a big endorsement. Edwards is one of the, you know, big names who is out there. And perhaps what it does more than anything else is kind of, you know, helped to slam the door shut on Senator Clinton. The door that was perhaps rapidly closing all by itself.

NORRIS: Yeah. Well, she sees that door as still being wide open. She plans to stay in the race. As interesting note, John Edwards won about seven percent of the vote yesterday in West Virginia, even though he's no longer an official presidential candidate. Could John Edwards' support help Barack Obama with some of those blue-collar voters and white voters who seem to be rallying around Senator Clinton?

GONYEA: That is certainly the hope of the Obama campaign. It is an area where they continue to have trouble. They note that they've been doing better according to exit polls with those voters, you know, in the contest since Pennsylvania. But still, those voters are the ones that are still more likely to look to Senator Clinton. They're the ones who seem more likely to have questions about Senator Obama. It's part of the reason why he is in Michigan today. He was in McCone County, the home of, you know, what we used to - Reagan Democrats.

Still, it's been a long time since Ronald Reagan's name has been on a ballot. But he is trying to figure out ways to reach out to those voters and to really make the case to those voters. He's making the case differentiating himself from not so much Hillary Clinton but John McCain. And Edwards is the guy who's good on the stump, and he's going to be out there helping Obama make that very case.

NORRIS: So what tipped the balance? Any sense of what the Obama camp did to get this nod?

GONYEA: Well, there - we don't know at this point. Again, this news is literally just breaking in the last 30 minutes or so. And we'll have a chance to talk about all that. You know, perhaps, the thing he did more than anything was become, you know, inevitable.

There's not a lot of risk for Edwards here to kind of put it on the line. He's backing the guy who, again, had all the numbers in favor of him as he - you know, he's going to spend these last few weeks of the campaign trying to nail down a nomination that, you know, the numbers are really working in his favor in terms of securing it. So what tipped the balance now beyond that, we just don't know at this point.

NORRIS: Don, just quickly, since you're inside the campaign cocoon, how are they reacting to this?

GONYEA: They were teasing this for about the last two hours, saying, you know, anybody who's thinking of getting off the plane now, you will regret not being there in Grand Rapids. They think this is a very big get. They are very excited about it. They're very anxious to see Senator Edwards on the stage with Senator Obama here in Grand Rapids today, with Senator Edwards making the case for Senator Obama's candidacy.

NORRIS: Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: A pleasure.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Don Gonyea. He's on the Obama campaign bus. He spoke to us from Western Michigan.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Edwards Backs Obama for Democratic Nomination

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards threw his support behind Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday, urging the party to unite to send a Democrat to the White House.

Standing alongside Obama at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Edwards said poor Americans have been shut out of the health care and education systems. Obama, he said, would tear down the walls that divide the rich and poor with universal health care and educational opportunities for impoverished students.

"There is one man who knows this is the time for bold leadership ... and that man is Barack Obama," said Edwards, a former North Carolina senator.

Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, quit the race for the party's presidential nomination in late January. Both Obama and rival Hillary Clinton had sought his support, and Edwards lavished praised on the New York senator in announcing his endorsement.

"She has shown strength and character, and what drives her is she cares about working people...and men and women in Iraq," Edwards said. "She's a leader in this country, not because of her husband, but because of what she has done."

The endorsement comes a day after Clinton handily won West Virginia's primary. But her victory did not change the dynamics in the race for the Democratic Party nod. Obama has a huge lead in the number of delegates who will select the nominee at the convention in August.

Edwards has 19 pledged delegates won in three states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Most of those delegates have already been selected, meaning they are technically free to support whomever they choose at the party's national convention, regardless of Edwards' endorsement.

Clinton has promised to stay in the race through the final five primaries, as she tries to convince voters she stands a better chance of beating Republican John McCain in November's general election.

Obama hopes Wednesday's endorsement will give him an edge among the white, working-class voters who supported Edwards before he exited the race. Obama also signed on to an anti-poverty initiative that Edwards launched Tuesday with the goal of reducing poverty in the United States by half within 10 years.

From NPR staff and wire reports

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.