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Former Senator, VP Candidate Edwards Joins 2008 US Presidential Race

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is the latest Democrat to formally announce he is running for president in 2008. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has details from Washington.

Edwards made his official announcement in New Orleans, which is still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina more than a year ago.

"If we actually want to change this country, and if we want to move America the way it needs to move, we are going to have to do it. All of us together," he said.

Edwards says he will work to bridge the economic divide in the country between rich and poor, a divide he says is on display in New Orleans.

Edwards will emphasize domestic issues in his presidential bid. He favors raising the minimum wage, expanding health care and making college education more affordable.

On foreign policy, Edwards favors withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq and opposes a surge of U.S. forces into Baghdad, something President Bush is said to be considering as he prepares to announce a new strategy for the Iraq war.

"The biggest responsibility of the next President of the United States is to reestablish America's leadership role in the world, starting with Iraq," said Edwards. "And we need to make it clear that we intend to leave Iraq and turn over the responsibility of Iraq to the Iraqi people. The best way to make that clear is to actually start leaving."

Edwards voted for the Iraq war when he was in the Senate, but now says that vote was a mistake.

This is Edwards' second bid for the presidency. He lost out to John Kerry in the 2004 Democratic primaries, but wound up as Senator Kerry's vice presidential running mate in a losing effort against President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Edwards will likely face some formidable rivals in the battle for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy soon, as is Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Other prominent Democrats including Senators Kerry, Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut are also expected to decide shortly whether they are running.

John Fortier, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, says Edwards and other Democrats could have a difficult time trying to share the spotlight with Clinton and Obama.

"You have Barack Obama, a very new and interesting and exciting African-American candidate, who is very inexperienced, but very exciting to many Democrats," he said. "I think he and Hillary Clinton will probably have the lion's share of the media attention."

Edwards plans to run hard in the early caucus and primary elections that begin in January of 2008. A recent poll gave Edwards a big lead in the first caucus state of Iowa over Senator Clinton and other Democratic hopefuls.

Edwards is the third Democrat to formally enter the 2008 race, joining Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.