Edwards Set to Launch '08 Bid; Bayh Out

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 17, 2006; 2:54 AM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Evan Bayh on Saturday ended his White House bid while 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards finalized plans to get in, fast-paced jockeying in a Democratic race under the shadow of two unannounced candidates.

Bayh decided he could not compete with Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, whose possible candidacies have dominated the positioning almost two years before the actual election.

Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, has decided he can and is planning to announce his campaign in New Orleans between Christmas and New Year's, two Democrats said.

Edwards' novel choice of sites shows how he wants to distinguish his candidacy: emphasizing policies he believes can unite a country divided by economic inequality, a situation no more evident than in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Bayh's exit stunned rivals and supporters. The former Indiana governor abandoned his bid just two weeks after forming a committee to raise money and gauge support for his candidacy.

"The odds were always going to be very long for a relatively unknown candidate like myself, a little bit like David and Goliath," Bayh said in the statement. He added that beyond the question of "whether there were too many Goliaths or whether I'm just not the right David," his chances were slim.

Bayh did not say who he considered to be the Goliaths. Yet it is Obama and Clinton who are attracting most of the attention among the 10 or more Democrats considering a bid.

Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in the first nominating state, Iowa. He has taken the lead in Iowa polling even with favorite son Gov. Tom Vilsack in the mix.

Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter said Clinton and Obama have emerged as the front-runners much earlier than was the case in previous campaigns. But she said another candidate could compete with them.

"There's room for one more. The question is: Who is it right now? And I don't think anybody can tell you with any real certainty of who that could be," she said.

Cutter said it is unclear if Edwards, despite campaigning hard in Iowa, can hold onto his lead until early 2008, when the state holds its nominating contest, as potential rivals get serious about the race.

Edwards plans to give Iowa more attention an announcement tour to begin around Dec. 28, the Democratic officials said. He plans to travel from New Orleans to Iowa and the three other early voting states _ Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

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