RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - Former senator John Edwards, in his first public speech since dropping his White House bid two months ago, praised Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama yesterday, but declined to endorse either candidate.
"I have a very high opinion of both of them," Edwards said at the Young Democrats of North Carolina convention. "We would be blessed as a nation to have either one of them as president."
Both Obama and Clinton have repeatedly lobbied Edwards for his endorsement, flying into Chapel Hill to meet with him privately and touting his accomplishments on the campaign trail. Before leaving the race, Edwards won a promise from both Clinton and Obama to make ending poverty central to their ongoing presidential campaigns.
Yesterday, Edwards pointed out the historical nature of both of their campaigns and said both were better suited in carrying forward his campaign platform than Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain.
"We are blessed, first, to have an extraordinarily talented African-American who could be the next president of the United States," Edwards said.
"There's no way to contest the fact that he's inspired this country."
"And Senator Clinton, who has served America for so long and so well, and has shown so much strength and leadership, has really forged an extraordinarily historic campaign as a woman for the nomination and for the presidency."
Clinton was winning about 60 percent support to 40 percent for Obama in the latest stage of a process that prompted frustration and challenges from supporters of both candidates.
Texas Democrats hold both a presidential primary and caucus. Clinton won the March 4 primary with 51 percent to Obama's 47 percent, earning her 65 national convention delegates to Obama's 61.
The state's caucus began immediately after polls closed primary night and quickly devolved into chaos in many parts of the state after an unprecedented turnout of more than 1 million Democrats.
An incomplete and unofficial count by the Texas Democratic Party showed Obama was leading Clinton in caucuses 56 percent to 44 percent on election night.
A total of 67 national convention delegates are ultimately at stake in the Texas caucuses, and party conventions throughout the state yesterday were the latest effort to divide the prize.
Obama entered the Texas conventions leading the national race for delegates, 1,623 to 1,499.