NEW ORLEANS -- Democrat John Edwards bowed out of the race for the White House on Wednesday, saying it was time to step aside "so that history can blaze its path" in a campaign now left to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
"With our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November," said Edwards, ending his second campaign in a hurricane-ravaged section of New Orleans where he began it more than a year ago.
Edwards said Clinton and Obama had both pledged that "they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency."
"This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause," he said before a small group of supporters.
Edwards said that on his way to make his campaign-ending statement, he drove by a highway underpass where several homeless people live. He stopped to talk, he said, and as he was leaving, one of them asked him never to forget them and their plight.
"I'll never forget you," he said, pledging to continue his campaign-long effort to end what he frequently said was "two Americas," one for the powerful, the other for the rest.
The former North Carolina senator did not immediately endorse either Clinton, seeking to become the first female president, or Obama, the strongest black candidate in history.
Both of them praised Edwards -- and immediately began courting his supporters.
"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," Clinton said.
Obama, too, praised Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth. At a rally in Denver, he said the couple has "always believed deeply that two Americans can become one, and that our country can rally around this common purpose," Obama said. "So while his campaign may have ended, this cause lives on for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America."
The impact of Edwards' decision will be felt in one week's time, when Democrats hold primaries and caucuses across 22 states, with 1,681 delegates at stake.