Edwards, Giuliani Withdraw From Race
Thursday, January 31, 2008
SIMI VALLEY, Calif., Jan. 30 -- The presidential nomination battles narrowed to a pair of head-to-head contests Wednesday as Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani retreated to the sidelines, while the remaining candidates dug in for five days of intensive campaigning before a Super Tuesday showdown next week.
Giuliani led the national Republican polls for much of last year, but his support plummeted in the opening weeks of the primary-caucus season. He folded his campaign Wednesday and immediately endorsed Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) at a joint news conference here hours before last night's GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States," Giuliani said with McCain at his side. "He is an American hero, and America could use heroes in the White House. He's a man of honor and integrity, and you can underline both." Two McCain advisers said that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse the senator Thursday.
McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney clashed repeatedly during the debate. McCain attacked Romney's economic record in Massachusetts, and Romney questioned whether McCain is a true conservative. Their sharpest exchange came over Iraq and whether Romney had called for secret timetables for withdrawing troops. Romney angrily accused McCain of not telling the truth, and McCain accused Romney of lacking the courage to support President Bush's troop increase until others had rallied around it.
On the Democratic side, Edwards, whose angry populism and focus on poverty made him a distinctive voice in the Democratic race, ended his candidacy where it began, in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "It is time for me to step aside so history can blaze its path," he told supporters.
Edwards said nothing about an endorsement of either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), and advisers said he has no imminent plans to do so.
Edwards's departure left Clinton and Obama facing a potentially protracted contest that could extend past Super Tuesday to primaries and caucuses stretching into March or beyond. The two Democrats will meet for their first one-on-one debate in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
The Republican race could reach an effective conclusion in Tuesday's balloting, with McCain, coming off his victory in Florida on Tuesday, determined to close out the challenge from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who finished fourth in Florida, still poses a potential obstacle to Romney, especially in many of the Southern primaries on Tuesday. Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), meanwhile, has struggled to expand his support beyond a dogged but small anti-establishment constituency.
While the Democratic and Republican races are now essentially two-person contests, their political contours are markedly different. Clinton and Obama are in a frequently nasty personal fight, but not one that reflects deep ideological divisions or, as yet, threatens to leave the party badly divided once it is over.
Republicans on the other hand, see the prospect of a clear fracture in their coalition as a result of the nomination contest. McCain is winning important primaries, but he is doing so without the support of the party's conservative or religious base.
"The base has got to take a look at this and decide what it wants," said a strategist who has worked on behalf of another candidate. "Even McCain's people would tell you they are close to finishing the job [of winning the nomination] politically, but ideologically they're not."
As the Republicans gathered in Simi Valley for their second debate of the campaign at the Reagan Library, Clinton and Obama hopscotched across states voting on Feb. 5 on their way to their own forum on Thursday.