Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards has announced he will be dropping out of the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

The decision comes after a consistent inability to compete strongly against rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and a disappointing third place finish in the Florida Democratic primary on Tuesday.

In a speech in New Orleans, where Edwards launched his 2008 presidential bid, Edwards said:

“It is time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path.”

Edwards, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth and his children, said he would not make a prediction on who would eventually win the Presidency, but believe it would be a Democrat.

On Tuesday, Edwards contacted Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to inform them of his plans and discuss the issue of poverty that has been so central to his campaign.

Edwards has not yet announced an endorsement for either candidate, although The Press Association reports both sides are courting him.

Some media pundits speculate he may be waiting to see who emerges as the strongest contender with consideration of stepping into a Vice Presidential nominee role.

Edwards was nominated for the Vice Presidency in 2004 on John Kerry’s ticket, but the two failed to garner enough support to defeat incumbent George W. Bush.

Speaking to the press, Barack Obama said Edwards had left the presidential battle in a “classy” way, saying “I think he’s run a great campaign.”

At a rally at the University of Denver, Obama told supporters:

“John has spent a lifetime fighting to give a voice to the voiceless and hope for the struggling.

“John and Elizabeth Edwards believe deeply that two Americas can become one.”

Hillary Clinton, in a statement to the press, said:

“John Edwards ended his campaign today in the same way he started it, by standing with the people who are too often left behind and nearly always left out of our national debate.”

The former First Lady was not shy about her desire to receive Edwards endorsement.

“I’d be honoured to have the support of those who supported Senator Edwards,” she said, according to the Washington Post.

Edwards’ decision to leave the Presidential race comes after a distant third place finish in the Florida Democratic primary on Tuesday behind Clinton and Obama.

In previous primaries and caucuses, Edwards has failed to prove himself as a strong contender against the two powerhouse candidates.

The departure of Edwards could lend strength to Clinton by boosting her support among Southern white voters, whom some theorise would be more likely to switch their vote from Edwards to her.

However, Obama’s campaign officials say this is not a factor, pointing to South Carolina polls that showed strong support for Obama among white voters.

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