Edward to Drop Out of Race

ABC News' Raelyn Johnson and Ed O'Keefe Report: Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., will drop out of the Democratic presidential race on Wednesday.

"It just became clear it wasn't going to happen," as senior Edwards advisor tells ABC News.

Edwards, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2004 then joined Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., as his vice presidential candidate, had placed poorly in several early contests,lagging behind rivals Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill.

The former North Carolina senator will end his bid during a speech on poverty in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he began his White House campaign in December 2006. His family, including wife Elizabeth, who is battling a recurrence of cancer and has been absent from the campaign trail since New Hampshire, is expected to be present.Edwards fought an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination, with a campaign focused on fighting poverty, uplifting the working middle class and guaranteeing universal healthcare for all Americans.After being shut out of contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and his home state of South Carolina, Edwards was forced to defend 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.But news of a decision to drop out of the race ends speculation that Edwards was aiming to be a kingmaker at the convention by collecting a significant amount of delegates to be able to have a say in who would become his party's nominee.What Edwards lacked wins, 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 rural voters.His campaign almost came to a screeching halt last March when it was revealed his wife Elizabeth Edwards had suffered a reoccurrence of cancer. This time it was incurable but together they vowed to continue the campaign.Edwards also struggled to match the message with the man at times.His campaign paid for two $400 dollar haircuts, an instant source of mockery from rivals and the late night comics. In the interim between his first and second bids, Edwards also took a consultant job with the hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, earning close to a half a million dollar salary.  While Edwards was employed, a sub prime 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 healthcare union, the Service Employees International Union as well as the Carpenters and Steelworkers.  Edwards has not publicly said who he will throw his support behind, 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 shot down any desire to again be a vice presidential candidate.

ABC News' Rick Klein contributed to this report.

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