Edwards Will Stay in Race Despite Wife's Cancer

Interview

Presidential candidate John Edwards announced sad news Thursday: Cancer has returned to his wife, Elizabeth. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

Since then, Elizabeth Edwards has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment; she was thought to be recovering. Now, she has learned that the cancer has returned, and has spread from the breast to the bone.

While it is not curable, Elizabeth Edwards' cancer is treatable, and doctors are optimistic. That news has led her husband to announce that he will continue his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

John Edwards has said he would not run if his wife's health is a factor. At a news conference Thursday, John and Elizabeth Edwards announced that it is not.

Edwards said that immediately after today's news conference, he and Elizabeth were leaving for a campaign trip to New York, Massachusetts, and California.

Polls among Democratic voters show him running behind Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the nomination, though he is running strong in the early caucus state of Iowa, where he has spent a lot of time in recent months.

Edwards said today that he has given no serious thought to ending his campaign.

Former Sen. John Edwards (NC)

John Edwards

John Edwards Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
At a Glance: John Edwards
Chart: Comparing Campaign Cash i i
Chart: Comparing Campaign Cash

First Campaign

Read about John Edward's first campaign.

The moment the 2004 Democratic ticket of Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards went down to defeat, Edwards began his second bid for the presidency.

Edwards, now the former senator from North Carolina, has spent much of the intervening years in Iowa, where he finished second to Kerry in the '04 caucuses, and where he has built a strong organization.

He has made a determined effort to repudiate (and apologize for) his 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war, drawing a contrast with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, who has refused to call her vote for war a "mistake." He has also been a strong and persistent critic against the Bush administration on its conduct of the war.

As they did in 2004, Edwards' supporters point out that as a Southerner, Edwards can make inroads in a region that produced the last three Democratic presidents (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton). But in 2004, Edwards' presence on the Democratic ticket did not help it carry a single Southern state, including his own. And during the primaries, he won just a single contest, that of his birth state of South Carolina.

A charming campaigner with a strong populist streak, Edwards has picked up on the themes he focused on last time: ending poverty, guaranteeing health care for all Americans and improving the environment. In fact, he announced his candidacy in New Orleans. The locale highlighted what Edwards sees as the greatest domestic failure of the Bush administration — its failed response to Hurricane Katrina — and helped make the point that he will not forget those left behind.

Edwards, who has been running third in the national polls for quite some time — trailing Clinton and Obama — now finds himself in the same position in Iowa, where he has invested nearly all of his time and money since the conclusion of his 2004 campaign for vice president. But by placing most, if not all, of his campaign's marbles in the Hawkeye State, a defeat there could end his viability as a serious candidate. A win in Iowa, of course, could reverberate several days later in the caucus in Nevada, where organized labor plays a major role, and a week later in South Carolina, where Edwards retains strong support.

When Edwards declared his candidacy for this presidential election cycle, he said the only thing that would hold him back was his wife's health. Elizabeth Edwards discovered she had breast cancer in October 2004, in the final weeks of Edwards' vice presidential campaign. Since then, she has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and was thought to be recovering.

On March 22, John and Elizabeth Edwards held a news conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., announcing that her cancer has returned, this time in the bone. The news was that Elizabeth's cancer was not curable, but it was treatable. Despite rumors that Edwards would drop out of the race, or suspend his campaign, he announced he would continue.

"The campaign goes on," he said. "The campaign goes on strongly."

Edwards was a hugely successful trial lawyer when he took on and beat Sen Lauch Faircloth (R) in 1998, in his first run for public office. Two years later, Edwards found himself on Al Gore's short list of potential vice presidential running mates. When he ran for president in 2004, Edwards gave up on a re-election bid to the Senate; at the time, his chances of winning a second term in office were seen as no better than even.

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.