Barack Obama sneaked down to North Carolina Sunday and met with former rival John Edwards, who has yet to make an endorsement in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Officials at North Carolina television station WTVD said they have video taken from a helicopter of Obama leaving Edwards’ home in Chapel Hill. A producer said the station was “tipped off” about the meeting, but said the source was confidential.
The Obama campaign confirmed the meeting. Although reporters normally travel everywhere with Obama, he left them behind to fly down in secret from his hometown.
“Senator Obama visited this morning with John and Elizabeth Edwards at their home in Chapel Hill to discuss the state of the campaign and the pressing issues facing American families,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. He wouldn’t comment on the possibility of an endorsement.
In an interview Sunday night with WITI-TV in Milwaukee, Obama said, “The meeting with John, we just wanted to talk about how we can move the party in a direction that focuses on middle-class issues — relieving poverty, reducing the influence of special interests in Washington.”
People close to the Edwardses, speaking privately, say they have been torn about whom to support. The former North Carolina senator is concerned that Obama may not be ready for the presidency and that his health care plan is inferior. But Edwards was highly critical of Clinton — her policies, her ties to special interests and her character — during his campaign, making it more difficult to support her now.
The couple has been impressed with Clinton, who has more effectively courted them since the 2004 vice presidential nominee dropped out, people who talk to the Edwardses say. Obama has been less attentive, they say, and some of those close to the Edwardses have been annoyed that Obama has continued to ridicule him for once saying his biggest weakness is that he has a powerful response to seeing pain in others.
Still, since Edwards has left the race, Obama often praises him in public. This week he told Wisconsin voters that Edwards will “be a major voice in the Democratic party for years to come, and I want him involved and partnering with me in moving this country forward.”
None of the other former Democratic presidential candidates — Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson or Dennis Kucinich — have endorsed Obama or Clinton, reflecting the party’s split over who would be the best president.
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