Edwards Says He Is "Definitely In The Race For The Duration"

Saturday, March 24th 2007, 1:52 pm
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ John Edwards said Saturday he is ``definitely in the race for the duration'' as he sought to reassure supporters who may be worried that he can balance a presidential campaign with his wife's cancer diagnosis.

``I know because of the nature of the woman I'm married to that she will be there every single step of the way to make sure that I do it,'' said the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004. ``And we take our responsibility to serving this country very seriously.''

At a candidates' forum, Edwards pointed out his wife, Elizabeth, sitting in the front row and thanked those who have offered words of encouragement since the couple announced Thursday that her breast cancer has spread to the bone.

Edwards spoke at an event focused on health care that was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a Washington-based policy group.

The former North Carolina senator said he and his wife understand that dealing with their personal struggle will require ``a focus and a maturity.''

``This is not the first challenge that Elizabeth and I have been through'' he said, noting their teenage son Wade died in a car accident 11 years ago.

Edwards said he and his wife are getting too much credit for forging ahead when millions of women are enduring the same struggle and the additional worry of getting the necessary care.

``One of the reasons that I want to be president of the United States is to make sure that every woman and every person in America gets the same things that we have,'' Edwards said.

Edwards has a plan to provide health care for everyone in the United States at the cost of raising taxes. He said politicians who say they can provide universal health care and other promises while ending the federal deficit are not being honest.

``They've probably got a bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you, too,'' Edwards said to laughter and applause. ``I just don't think it can be done.''

But New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he could provide universal health care in the first year of his presidency without raising taxes. He said his plan would include a tax credit for low-income people who need coverage and prevention strategies such as a nationwide smoking ban like the one he signed in New Mexico.

He said he would pay for his plan in large part by ending the war in Iraq and shifting the military spending to human needs _ an idea that won loud applause.

``You have to do them both at the same time, you have to control costs and you have to expand coverage,'' Richardson said. ``What I proposed is some new ideas within an existing system.''

Video of the candidate forum was fed live over the Internet. The moderator, Time magazine's Karen Tumulty, took questions from Internet viewers as well as prescreened questions from union members in the audience.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was challenged by an audience member who said she had gone to the senator's Web site looking for health care reform information and found only plans about HIV and lead poisoning. He said he would have a detailed plan in a couple months, after he has a chance to discuss it further with experts and front-line workers.

``Our campaign is a little over eight weeks old, we will be putting a very detailed plan on our Web site,'' Obama said. ``As I indicated before, my commitment is to making sure that we have universal health care by the end of my first term as president.''

Obama said he had not decided how much money his plan would cost, but he did not rule out a tax increase. ``I can tell you I will do whatever it takes,'' Obama said.

He said he wants to require that employers either provide coverage or help their workers pay to get their own and favors cutting costs through prevention, management and technology improvements. He said Edwards' plan was ``very credible'' and that Richardson had some good ideas.

Other candidates scheduled to address the forum were Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Chris Dodd of Connecticut; Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich; and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.

While in Las Vegas, the candidates also raised money and courted the state's largest labor union. Clinton had a fundraiser and so did Obama.

Clinton, Obama and Richardson attended a Friday night rally of cocktail waitresses, housekeepers and line cooks who belong to the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, a group of 60,000 members expected to be a key organizing force in the state's caucus.

Clinton recalled her work as a young woman busing tables, Obama talked about walking the picket line with a sister union in Chicago and Richardson, speaking in Spanish, promoted worker rights.