Edwards: 'It's Time For Me To Step Aside'

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"There is no doubt that I would love John's support, but I also respect the fact that he is in this contest," Obama said in a "Nightline" interview that aired Tuesday night, with Obama praising Edwards as a "formidable candidate."

Edwards has been fighting a cold for the last couple of days, but he was in a great mood last night, joking with reporters as usual on his campaign plane.

ABC News has learned that Edwards made the decision to bow out in the last two days. Telling signs that he was dropping out included his canceled scheduled campaign stops in the Feb. 5 states of Alabama and North Dakota.

Instead, the Edwards campaign announced yesterday he was going to New Orleans to make a "major poverty address." Edwards was also scheduled to go on the air yesterday in several Feb. 5 states with television ad that had been delivered to local television affiliates -- but the ads did not go up as scheduled.

Uphill Battle

Edwards fought an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination, with a campaign focused on fighting poverty, uplifting the working middle class and guaranteeing universal health care for all Americans.

After placing behind Obama and Clinton in contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and his home state of South Carolina, Edwards was forced to mount a defense for continuing his campaign.

"I am in this through the convention and the White House," said Edwards in a recent interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Those words became a standard line of defense.

Wednesday's announcement ends speculation that Edwards was aiming to be a kingmaker at the party's national convention by collecting a significant amount of delegates and then swinging those delegates to either Clinton or Obama.

What Edwards lacked in votes, he made up for in compassion. His populist message played well with working middle class families. He often touted himself as the candidate from rural America who inherently best understood issues facing a broad swath of voters.

His campaign almost came to a screeching halt last March, when it was revealed that his wife Elizabeth had suffered a recurrence of cancer. Together the couple vowed to continue the campaign.

Controversial Haircuts

Edwards also struggled at times to match the message with the man.

His campaign paid for two $400 dollar haircuts, an instant source of mockery from rivals and late night comics. Between his first and second presidential runs, Edwards took a consultant job with the hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, earning a salary of close to half a million dollars. While Edwards worked for the company, a subprime lending division of Fortress moved to foreclose on homes of Katrina victims.

Edwards was able to hold on to a key group of voters: union members. He was endorsed by several state chapters of the nation's largest health care union, the Service Employees International Union, as well as the Carpenters and Steelworkers.

Edwards has not publicly said which candidate he will support, though he has had private conversations with both Clinton and Obama in recent days.

In a recent interview with ABC News' David Muir, Edwards adamantly denied any desire to again be a vice presidential candidate.

He will not be participating in tonight's' Jefferson Jackson dinner in Atlanta as scheduled. It is likely the family will return to their Chapel Hill, North Carolina residence this evening.

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