April 9, 2008 — -- Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, defended her surprise support for Sen. Hillary Clinton's health plan today over the approach advocated by her rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
But in an interview with "Good Morning America," she insisted she remains unwilling to endorse the candidacy of either of the two remaining Democratic contenders.
She did say she thought it would be OK if the Democrats waited till the convention in August to choose a candidate, and she still thinks that Clinton and Obama ending up on a the same ticket would be a dream.
In an interview with "GMA's" Robin Roberts, Edwards, who has been outspoken on health-care issues, said she tends to throw support to "ideas that succeed and less for … a particular individual."
Edwards said she believed Clinton's health-care plan was more inclusive than that of Obama's.
"You need that universality in order to get the cost savings. … I just have more confidence in Sen. Clinton's policy than Sen. Obama's on this particular issue," she said.
As to how the contentious Democratic nomination process will end, Edwards said she thought letting the race end at the convention was a good idea.
"I don't actually think it's a bad idea to have an open convention, where we actually got to hash out what the differences [between the candidates] were and how important they are," she said.
Edwards said she liked the idea of Clinton and Obama running together on a so-called dream ticket, and discounted the idea of her husband accepting a place as either candidate's running mate.
"[Clinton and Obama] are the two strongest Democrats running. It's hard not to believe that together they are stronger than they would be apart."
On the health plan, Edwards — who recently began work as a senior fellow at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress — explained, "I want to see the policies that we've talked about now for so many years come to fruition. John won't be the one to make that happen. So maybe if I keep talking about it, maybe one of these other candidates will embrace some of these ideas.
Edwards, a vocal part of her husband's campaign, has been largely quiet since the former senator dropped out of the race three months ago. She stepped back into the fray, however, this weekend with an attack on Arizona Sen. John McCain's health-care plan. She argued that neither she, who has breast cancer, nor McCain, who had skin cancer, could obtain health insurance under his health-care proposal.
Citing a working mother she'd met in Cleveland who found a lump in her breast but couldn't see a doctor because she didn't have health insurance, Edwards said, "That woman who whispered in my ear will die because we don't have a system that provided a working mother the ability to obtain health insurance at a cost that she can afford."
"Now it's finally the time to fix the problem," Edwards said, "I hope that I'm passing the message on from that woman to the people who seek to lead us."
Edwards said her husband had been in close contact with Clinton's and Obama's campaigns, but was offering "perspective" more than an endorsement.
"Whenever there's a primary, John will call and congratulate whoever's won the latest primary on their performance — and speak to the other candidate. But [what] we have to offer is not so much an endorsement as a perspective on what we found as we crossed the country, on what is the bigger issue and the solutions that seem most realistic," she said.
Edwards also struck down the notion that her husband has any political ambitions attached to the Democrats' November ticket.
Of the vice presidency, Edwards said, "We've talked about whether that would be something he'd be interested in … and John wanted to make it perfectly clear that he's not in this for any position in the future."
Noting her husband's experience as John Kerry's running mate in 2000, Edwards said it was difficult for a one-time adversary to switch tacks and automatically accept another person's positions on everything.
"John will make it perfectly clear that he's not in this for any position in the future. The vice presidential race is an extremely difficult one for any candidate. I think people don't understand how hard it is for one to say you've had policies that are somewhat different from the candidate, and then basically you embrace everything the presidential candidate has had to say."
In March 2007, Edwards announced that she had breast cancer, but continued to campaign for her husband. She told "GMA" that she was doing well and had recently seen her physicians.
"I'm doing great. I still have cancer in my bone. I get tested periodically, but it's under control. It doesn't seem to be growing, knock on wood. And I'm continuing taking some sort of treatment for the rest of my life, and hope that medicine catches up with my disease."
For Edwards, her path seems defined by championing the causes that matter most to her while continuing to fight her own battled.
"People have trusted me on these issues," she said, "and I can't just say 'I'm sorry, no -- look to somebody else, I've got my own problems to deal with.'"
"You have to keep on with that work, so maybe I'm supposed to keep living, you know?" Edwards said. "But I think that's a good thing, not a bad thing."