(courtesy via NcDem)
Now we go to Philadelphia. Senator John Edwards, the former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, former U.S. senator from North Carolina. He was also John Kerry's running mate in 2004. You have not endorsed, senator. Some might say as a major figure in the party at this point, don't you have a responsibility to endorse? JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I think that what I have a responsibility to do is make sure that the Democrats' message and our cause is heard and that we're united in the fall. You know, myself, Al Gore, I think there are some others who haven't spoken out yet about this nomination battle.
I think we have two great candidates. I have such an extraordinarily high opinion of both of them. You watch sort of what's happened in the past, I think that some of the endorsements as opposed to helping unite have contributed to the divide. And what I don't want to do is contribute to the divide. I mean, we had a primary in North Carolina where I live. I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I voted in that primary. So obviously, I made a choice in that vote. But at least for this moment, I think the reasonable thing for me to do is let voters make their decision.
KING: All right. How damaged, frankly, is your party based on the way this primary has gone and the hostility that has occurred between the two candidates?
EDWARDS: Well, my honest feeling about that is the longer it goes on and -- when I got out back at the end of January, beginning of February, one of the reasons I got out was I thought that my getting out would accelerate the choice of a nominee, would allow us to get prepared for the fall. Shows you how smart I am. It didn't work. It's going on and on and on.
And I think that the length of the primary is not helpful to us. I will say that if Senator Obama, who is certainly the front-runner right now, ends up being the nominee, I think the competition has been good for him. I think he's become stronger and tougher, more focused through the course of this campaign, more experienced in a tough national race.
So you know, there's sort of six of one, half dozen of the other. But I do think we're approaching the time and it's going to come naturally where this thing needs to come to an end and we need to start focusing on the fall.
KING: Are you saying, then, to Senator Clinton face the facts?
EDWARDS: No. The one thing I would never do is say to Senator Clinton, who's a strong candidate, and has as much experience in this as anybody around, what she needs to do. She doesn't need advice from me. She's run a strong campaign. I think she's actually as a candidate become stronger. The odds against her have become longer, unfortunately.
And I think she's in a very difficult place. But I do have to say just on a personal note, having been through this now twice, to get up and go out there every morning when everyone's saying it's over, you're not going to win, you need to get out, and face the media and face the public and continue to make your case.
I mean, this woman's made a steal. And she deserves an enormous amount of credit and admiration. I can tell you she has my personal admiration. But I think the reality is that we have a dynamic young strong candidate in Barack Obama who looks like he's going to be the nominee.
KING: What does your party do about Florida and Michigan? Now, you're going to address the convention in Denver.
EDWARDS: Yes, I expect to.
KING: Obviously, you deserve to. What do you think about Florida and Michigan?
EDWARDS: Well, I think we can't disenfranchise the voters in those two states, particularly in Florida after what happened in 2000. So I think the DNC is scheduled to deal with this later this month. I think they will find some fair middle ground resolution that allows the delegations from those two states to be seated. I suspect there will be some division that slightly favors Senator Clinton but doesn't have a great impact on the race.
KING: We'll be right back with Senator John Edwards.
KING: Senator Edwards, would you run again for vice president if asked?
EDWARDS: No. I don't have any interest in it, no intention to do it. The cause of my life, Larry, is to do something about poverty in this country, and I'm going to pour my heart and soul into that. I knew you were going to ask me about this.
But you know, we're here in Philadelphia to launch a campaign to cut poverty in half in the next 10 years. I'm committed to this cause. We have wonderful organizations who are working on this cause. And I just came, in fact, today -- I mentioned this to you earlier. Just came today from being on the Gulf Coast with Habitat for Humanity and President Carter. Earlier today I was hammering nails and building houses on the Gulf Coast. So that's what my life is about now.
KING: All right. Hillary quoting an "A.P" story, questioned Obama, can he do well with white working-class voters. What do you make of that? And can he?
EDWARDS: He absolutely can. I mean, this is a good man who has shown throughout his life that he cares about equality, that he cares about everybody in this country having a chance. I mean, he himself came from nothing with a single mom to being able to do -- to being a nominee now, it looks like, for president of the United States.
And his life story itself exhibits what this country's about. And he absolutely -- the people that I grew up with in small town rural southern America who struggle and work hard every day trying to have a better life, they will connect with Barack Obama when they get to know him and they understand where his heart is.
KING: Before I ask you about poverty, one other thing about campaigning, and that's Senator McCain. You serve with him in the Senate. What's your view of him?
EDWARDS: I respect him. I like him very much personally. He is -- you know, I'm for the Democrat. I'm for Obama or Clinton, whoever gets the nomination, because I think our agenda is the right agenda for America and the world. And I disagree profoundly with Senator McCain about the war. But I -- but having said all that, he's somebody that I have enormous respect for, and I think he will make a strong candidate for the Republicans.
KING: One quick call, and then I'll ask you about poverty, and then Barbara Walters. The call is from Ridgecrest, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. I wanted to ask Mr. Gore, why is that
KING: It's Senator Edwards, not Mr. Gore, but go ahead.
CALLER: I'm sorry. Senator Edwards, why aren't the Democratic nominees addressing the low-income and below poverty voters, and what do the Democrats -- Democratic nominees plan to do for them?
KING: That's something you concentrated on, but it has not been discussed a great deal, you must admit.
EDWARDS: Not enough. And I know that both Barack and Hillary care deeply about this. I've talked to them -- every time I've talked to them, I've talked to them about it.
You know, this is something that's central to their own lives and what they care about. And we've got -- been able to get very specific commitments from both of them about what they're willing to do, both in the campaign, the general election campaign, and in their presidency if they're able to win the presidency. Things like raising the minimum wage, expansion of the earned income tax credit, making child care available to more families that don't have it.
The things that we're working on in this cutting poverty in half in the next 10 years campaign, Half in 10, which is the name of this campaign, they've already committed to.
So I actually am convinced that in the next administration, poverty will be front and center and we'll be able to do something about this.
KING: But senator, in 1966 -- '66, Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. That's 42 years.
KING: What happened?
EDWARDS: We did some things right and we did some things wrong, you know? We cut the poverty rate in America in half, or about half as a result of the war on poverty.
But we also created a cycle of dependency in some cases. And what we have to do is understand what lessons to be learned from that, what worked, what didn't work, and how do we in a way that's centered on work and independence and making sure that families not are supported by the government, but that families are able to take care of themselves and give their kids a chance? That's what this is all about.
KING: Will you come back one night and we can discuss at length the poverty project?
EDWARDS: Oh, you got it, anytime, you just let me know.
KING: You're my man. Thanks, senator.
EDWARDS: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Senator John Edwards, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.