The field of U.S. presidential contenders shrank by two as Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudy Giuliani decided to end their campaigns. Giuliani endorsed fellow Republican John McCain at a joint appearance in California. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the presidential race from Washington.
The battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination is now down to two contenders, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Former North Carolina senator John Edwards ended his presidential campaign in New Orleans, the same place he announced his bid for the White House more than one year ago.
Edwards used a poor neighborhood ravaged by the floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a backdrop to urge his supporters to continue the fight to eliminate poverty in the U.S.
"Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what is possible, because it is time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two America's one. Thank you, God bless you and let us go to work," he said.
Edwards was the Democratic Party's nominee for vice president in 2004, part of a losing ticket with presidential nominee John Kerry.
Edwards finished second in the Iowa caucuses this year to Senator Barack Obama, but was never able to mount a serious bid to overtake Obama and the other top Democratic contender, Senator Hillary Clinton.
Edwards did not announce an endorsement, but Clinton and Obama are eager to win over Edwards' supporters.
Clinton made her appeal in a television interview.
"I wished him well. I wished his family well. Obviously, it is very important that the contribution he made, especially to encourage us to focus on poverty, remains a central cause of our campaign and, I hope, of my presidency," he said.
Obama made his appeal for support during a campaign appearance in Denver, Colorado.
"I am grateful to John Edwards for his service to this country. I am grateful to Elizabeth Edwards for her courage and inspiration," he said.
Elizabeth Edwards has battled cancer during her husband's campaign.
Clinton and Obama are now focused on the 22 Democratic contests on February 5, so-called Super Tuesday, when more than half of the Democratic nominating delegates will be at stake.
Meanwhile, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani's departure from the Republican presidential race follows a big victory Tuesday by Senator John McCain in the Florida primary.
McCain is now the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
"We have a ways to go, but we are getting close. And for that you all have my profound thanks," he said.
McCain and former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas now square off in 21 Republican contests on Super Tuesday that could determine who wins the party's presidential nomination.
Romney hopes to compete next week by tapping into his vast personal wealth.
But expert John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute sees an advantage for McCain.
"Romney certainly has the resources to run a national campaign. But McCain has the advantage of being someone who appeals more nationally than does Romney. Romney has yet to prove that he can compete in certain regions," he said.
The early part of the presidential campaign required the candidates to engage voters one-on-one or in small groups in states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
But next week's Super Tuesday contests will force the candidates to spend lots of money on television advertising and fly from state to state to make brief appearances in hopes of winning support.