(CNSNews.com) - Expect to hear a lot in the next year about the "two Americas" that former U.S. Sen. John Edwards sees as the most pressing problem in the country. Edwards, stressing the gap between rich and poor, used the Hurricane Katrina-devastated Ninth Ward of New Orleans Thursday as the backdrop for announcing his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
The casually dressed Edwards, seeking to cast himself as the champion of the blue-collar worker, said he has worked on a house and at a food bank over the last couple of days in New Orleans. Edwards recently launched One Corps -- an organization that he said seeks thousands of young people to "make a difference."
The Ninth Ward in New Orleans was catastrophically affected by Katrina, and Edwards said the area provides a good example of how Americans can find common purpose.
"I think that's why I'm in New Orleans, is to show what's possible when we as Americans, instead of staying home and complaining about somebody else not doing what they're supposed to, we actually take responsibility and we take action."
Edwards spoke about what he sees as the need to raise the federal minimum wage and admitted that if he were president, he would seek to eliminate some of the tax cuts implemented by President Bush.
The former senator says his vote to authorize the Bush administration's use of military force in Iraq was a mistake. He now advocates the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops from Iraq and a phased pull-out of more troops.
Prior to serving as the vice presidential running mate to 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry and one term in the U.S. Senate, Edwards was a trial lawyer in North Carolina, specializing on cases involving brain injury to the newly born. See previous report.
Edwards joins U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa as major candidates in the 2008 race. However, even before they enter the race, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barrack Obama of Illinois are considered by most of the media to be the two favorites.
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