ABC News’ Kate Snow, Raelyn Johnson, Sunlen Miller, and Rick Klein Report: Former Sen. John Edwards is endorsing Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy Wednesday evening, in a dramatic attempt by the Obama campaign to answer concerns regarding Obama’s appeal to working-class voters, several senior Democratic sources tell ABC News.
The Obama campaign confirms Edwards will endorse Obama at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan Wednesday. The event was originally scheduled to start at 7pmET, but was moved up to 6:20pmET, presumably to have the announcement make the evening news.
Edwards, who ran for president on a platform of eradicating poverty, plans to appear alongside Obama for the announcement. The event comes one day after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Obama by 41 points in the West Virginia primary, and Edwards’ endorsement will give Obama a key establishment stamp of approval as he attempts to close out the nominating process.
Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have remained studiously neutral since the Edwards campaign came to a close Jan. 30. Edwards on Sunday called Obama "the likely nominee," but made clear that his statement reflected a judgment about the state of the race, not necessarily a personal preference.
The possibility of an Edwards endorsement has been the subject of intense speculation for months; only former vice president Al Gore’s endorsement was more coveted by Obama and Clinton. Edwards and his wife had publicly praised Clinton’s healthcare plan, but Edwards’ anti-corporate message seemed a better fit for Obama’s outsider campaign.
Campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe responded to the endorsement this evening both during a quick press availability outside of the Senator’s residence, and in a paper statement.
“We respect John Edwards," McAuliffe said, "but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over.”
A source close to the Clinton campaign said the Edwards camp gave the Clinton folks a heads up.
"Clearly it’s upsetting," the source tells ABC. "He brings the workers" to Obama.
"Well I don’t think it’s good news, but there’s a lot of news in this business and we move forward and move past it. It’s not great news," a Clinton senior advisor said.
Asked what effect the Edwards endorsement might have, he said: "We don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see how much of it is transferable," referring to Edwards’ popularity with white working class voters.
"We would’ve preferred it," to be our endorsement the advisor said. That’s not a secret.
Clinton met today with six uncommitted superdelegates at the DCCC offices on Capitol Hill.
This advisor said the Clinton campaign believes superdelegates are concerned about Obama’s loss in West Virginia last night and other swing states.
"No question — that started with Ohio and increased with Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia," he said. "All I can say is, I don’t want to overdramatize it, but starting with Ohio the remaining superdelegates started really focusing on the 270 electoral vote issue and how do we best assemble that and it’s made a marked impression."
But then in a moment of candor the advisor conceded, "I’m not sure it’s gonna be enough."