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Edwards acknowledges difficult public image

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"Did it make sense to run and stay in the race? Time will tell," he said.

He says he has no plans to make a push to restore his name, along the lines of what former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has embarked on. Reputation "is not something I'm focused on," he said. "The only relevance of it at all is my ability to help people. That's the only reason it matters. I'm not engaged in, or interested in, being in a PR campaign."

But he did not rule out a return to politics. He said it was too early to say what the future held - though an Al Gore-style advocacy role was more likely than elected office, given the scandal. He thinks "every day" about what form his future role in activism or public life could take, but "right now, a lot of that is unanswerable."

"Sometimes you just keep your head down and work hard and see what happens," he said.

After a strong showing in the 2004 primaries and his selection as John Kerry's running mate, Edwards left the Senate to prepare for a second presidential run, positioning himself as the more progressive alternative to Clinton despite a voting record that was decidedly centrist on many issues. But then Obama came along. Edwards placed second behind the relative newcomer in the Iowa caucuses, then dropped out of the race in late January. He endorsed Obama in May, putting himself in the mix for vice president or attorney general.

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