RALEIGH, N.C. — In the four years after his first White House bid, John Edwards stayed in the spotlight. In the four months since he abandoned his second bid, he has all but disappeared.
A quick interview with Jay Leno. A couple of low-key speeches. A few North Carolina basketball games with his wife and children. That's about it. If Edwards has made up his mind between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, not only is he keeping quiet about it, he's not even putting himself in a position where he might be asked.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, April 19, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
John Edwards: An article in Friday's Section A about former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' keeping a low profile in the campaign said he dropped out of the presidential race four months ago. He ended his bid for the Democratic nomination on Jan. 30.
The silence from Chapel Hill hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I'd like to know what he thinks," said Gary Pearce, a Democratic consultant who advised Edwards during his successful run for Senate in 1998. "He was onstage with these two people, and he knows more about them than anyone in the world. Who is in a better position to say, 'Let me tell you about these people' ?"
Edwards is even coy in private. Rep. Mel Watt, one of North Carolina's superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention, wanted to consult with Edwards before making a decision about his own endorsement. Watt said he called a few times to speak with Edwards, but never heard back.
Watt ended up passing along a message through Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, after making up his mind to back Obama. "I presume if he had a concern, he'd call," Watt said.
Obama and Clinton have lobbied Edwards, flying to his home in Chapel Hill, N.C., for visits that both candidates tried to keep secret. Neither has managed to win over the 2004 vice presidential nominee, and it's not clear either will until the nomination is settled.
"I don't anticipate that he'll make an endorsement," said John Moylan, Edwards' friend and longtime advisor. "I think that he will support the Democratic nominee -- that there is a need for party leaders who can act in a unifying position."
It's possible Edwards' endorsement wouldn't have any bearing on the May 6 North Carolina primary. He was unable to deliver the state for 2004 presidential nominee John F. Kerry, and polls showed him lagging there before he dropped out this year. Surveys now show a wide lead there for Obama, who is expected to get a boost from new registrations among black voters.
Before leaving the race, Edwards won promises from both of the Democratic hopefuls to continue to press for policies that would alleviate poverty. Two weeks after Edwards exited, Obama gave a major speech on how he would address economic disparities. Earlier this month, Clinton said she would create a Cabinet-level position on poverty.
David E. Bonior, the former Michigan congressman who managed Edwards' 2008 campaign, said he expected the former trial lawyer and his wife to step back into public life to push for action on poverty and others issues.
"I think he's caught his breath, and I think you'll be hearing his voice more," Bonior said. "I wish that he would speak up more on those issues that he cares about."
That has slowly started to happen -- with Elizabeth Edwards. She recently signed on as a visiting fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics and started as a fellow at the Center for American Progress to advocate on healthcare issues.
She has touted Clinton's healthcare plan as superior to Obama's, but has also declined to endorse either candidate.
Both Edwardses declined repeated requests for interviews, and John Edwards declined to talk with reporters after accepting an award last month at a Young Democrats convention near his home.
His brief speech at that event praised Obama's inspiration and Clinton's leadership.