Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards endorsed Senator Barack Obama at a rally Wednesday night (May 14) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Edwards began his speech with lengthy praise for Obama's rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, and called for party unity before endorsing Obama.
""The reason I'm here tonight is because the Democratic voters have made their choice, and so have I," Edwards said to thunderous applause. "There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man who knows how to create the lasting change you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time build one America, not two, and that man is Barack Obama."
The endorsement came on the heels of Obama's heavy defeat in West Virginia Tuesday. He failed to connect with that state's overwhelmingly white, working-class voters, an important Democratic Party contingent. Edwards, a former senator and vice presidential nominee, has polled well with that same population, and the Obama campaign surely views an Edwards endorsement as a boost to his so-called electability. Clinton has cited his lack of support among white, working-class voters as a reason she is better suited to run against the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain.
Edwards won 19 pledged delegates while he was a candidate. While that isn't a significant number, any delegates Edwards can throw Obama's way are helpful, given how tight the race is.
Financial inequality in America was one of the cornerstones of Edwards' run for the White House, and he echoed those themes repeatedly during his speech. "It is not OK that ... a child born in a small town or inner city hardly gets by," said Edwards "Their education is our education. We're gonna fix these systems for them."
Both candidates have been actively courting Edwards. Until recently he had failed to give any indication as to which of the two he favored, although many insiders predicted he would ultimately side with Clinton.
The location of Wednesday's announcement was also important, as the Democratic candidates did not campaign in Michigan. When the state's Democratic Party scheduled its primary ahead of Super Tuesday, the national party refused to recognize it, and the candidates agreed not to campaign there. Obama's visit to the state has been seen as an attempt to appease Michigan and let voters there get to know him. He joked about the situation during his brief introduction of Edwards on Wednesday.
"I felt guilty about not being able to campaign here," Obama said. "So I decided I would give you something special."
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[This story was originally published at 6:35 pm E.T. on 5.14.2008]