Democratic front-runner Barack Obama has scored a coup in his White House nominating battle against Hillary Clinton by winning the high-profile endorsement of blue-collar champion John Edwards.
Edwards, a two-time presidential hopeful and the party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, formally backed the Illinois senator at an exuberant Michigan rally late on Wednesday, reinforcing signs of the Democratic establishment closing ranks behind Obama.
The announcement punctured Clinton’s short-lived boost after her landslide win in Tuesday’s West Virginia primary, although the former first lady said she did not believe in quitting and would fight on.
Edwards hailed Clinton as a woman “made of steel” who had strengthened the Democratic Party and the eventual presidential nominee by fighting so doggedly for issues dear to her heart.
But the former North Carolina senator said: “The Democratic voters of America have made their choice and so have I.”
Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe brushed off Edwards’ announcement, which capped a day of endorsements for Obama including that of the nation’s top abortion rights organization.
“We respect John Edwards, but as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over,” he said.
The former first lady routed Obama by 67 percent to 26 percent in West Virginia and was the runaway leader with white and lower-income voters, in a worrying sign for Obama as he contemplates swing voters Democrats need to win in November.
Asked earlier on CNN if she would fight to the end of the primary season on June 3, Clinton said: “I’m not going anywhere, except to Kentucky and Oregon, and Montana, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico. I don’t believe in quitting.”