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Giuliani, Edwards opt out

Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards abandoned their failing US presidential bids on Wednesday, narrowing the race to two main candidates on each side before next week's nomination voting in more than 20 states.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2008 03:21 IST

Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards abandoned their failing US presidential bids on Wednesday, narrowing the race to two main candidates on each side before next week's nomination voting in more than 20 states.

Giuliani, the one-time front-runner who finished a distant third in Florida's Republican primary on Tuesday, traveled to California to endorse Arizona Sen. John McCain in a Republican battle against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Today I am officially announcing my withdrawal as a candidate for president of the United States,” Giuliani said at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley before a televised Republican presidential debate.

“John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States.”

McCain, standing beside his longtime friend, said all Americans recalled the former New York mayor's leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and he predicted Giuliani would be his “strong right arm” in the campaign.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse McCain on Thursday in Los Angeles, campaign aides said.

The backing of the moderate Republican governor could be an important boost for McCain in California, adding to his momentum before the heavyweight state holds its crucial primary as part of next week's coast-to-coast voting.

The candidates are in the early stages of a state-by-state battle to pick Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. The winners from the two parties will face off in the Nov. 4 election to succeed President George W. Bush.

The withdrawal of Edwards means Democrats will field a history-making ticket.

Regardless of whether Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or former first lady Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, it will be the first time a black or a woman has headed a major US party's presidential slate.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, traveled to New Orleans, where he launched his campaign more than a year ago, to make the surprise announcement he was pulling out.

He had vowed last week to stay in the race until Tuesday, when almost half the US states vote to pick candidates for the November election.

“It is time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path,” said Edwards, who campaigned as the champion of low- and middle-income families.

Edwards did not immediately endorse either of his rivals. Giuliani's withdrawal leaves McCain facing a strong challenge from Romney.

At the debate in California, Romney and McCain accused each other of pursuing liberal policies out of step with mainstream Republicans.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is still formally in the Republican race but his lack of campaign money and limited appeal beyond Christian conservatives has left him trailing.