Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards ended his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination today, saying it was "time to step aside so that history can blaze its path."Edwards announced his withdrawal in a Katrina-devastated neighborhood of New Orleans -- the same place he launched his candidacy more than a year ago.
Edwards did not make an endorsement in the presidential contest. But he said he was convinced a progressive Democrat would win the White House in November.
"With all of the injustice that we've seen... America's hour of transformation is upon us," Edwards said.
Edwards said he had spoken to Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and both had promised to make ending poverty a focus of their campaigns and, if they win, a central part of the presidency.
Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, and their three children stood with him for the announcement of his withdrawal.
"This son of a mill-worker is going to be just fine," Edwards said. "Our job now is to make sure that America will be fine."
Edwards did not discuss his future plans. But he indicated he would continue his efforts on behalf of people in poverty.
"Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for," he told supporters. "Do not walk away from what's possible, because it's time for all of us, all of us, together to make the two Americas one."
The decision to suspend his campaign today caught many people by surprise, even though Edwards fell short in four early contests that were critical to his strategy -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Although Edwards, 54, won significant support in most of those states, he could not break through against the two better known, better financed and historic candidates.
After a damaging third-place finish in his native South Carolina on Saturday, Edwards had vowed to campaign in the 22 states that will hold primaries on Tuesday.
But Edwards' strategy was a difficult one, counting on voters to have buyer's remorse against Clinton or Obama, and then turn to Edwards in a brokered convention.
Some voters who liked Edwards' championing of such issues as poverty and universal health care had discounted his chances of winning the nomination.
Edwards ran a determined campaign that focused on fighting poverty at home and withdrawing troops from abroad. But personal battles often took center stage. Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with cancer just after his first run for the presidency. Last year, the couple learned that her cancer had returned. But the two continued to push forward, with Elizabeth Edwards playing a significant role in the campaign.
Obama issued a statement today praising Edwards for fighting for people who are voiceless and struggling "even when it wasn't popular to do or covered in the news."
John and Elizabeth Edwards, he said, believe that the country can rally around a common purpose. "So while his campaign may end today, the cause of their lives endures for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America," Obama said.
Clinton also applauded the Edwardses in a statement, citing their compassion, conviction and "deep concern for the lives of the American people."