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Inside Politics

John and Elizabeth Edwards defend decision to run

Story Highlights

• Couple defends the decision to pursue presidential bid in spite of cancer scare
• John Edwards calls voters' questions about running "legitimate"
• Couple announced recurrence of Elizabeth Edwards' breast cancer Thursday
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic presidential contender John Edwards and his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth defended their decision to continue his White House bid Sunday, but the former senator said voters' questions about the decision to keep running are legitimate.

"I think every single candidate for President, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in, to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make," Edwards, the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee, told CBS' "60 Minutes."

Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the 2004 campaign and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. But Thursday, the couple disclosed the cancer had spread to her bones -- a condition doctors described as incurable, but treatable. (Full story)

John Edwards said he and his wife decided together to go forward with his campaign, and that he was in the race "for the duration."

"We have every reason to be optimistic right now," John Edwards told CBS. "I believe in my heart and soul that Elizabeth is going to do well. I do believe that. She will be out there campaigning with me, and separately."

Elizabeth Edwards said she feels "terrific" now, "except for a cracked rib that is completely unrelated to any of the more serious issues I face."

"You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday, or you start dying," she said. "If I had given up everything that my life was about, first of all, I'd let cancer win before it needed to. You know, maybe eventually it will win. But I'd let it win before I needed to."

The couple has three children: Cate, 25; Emma Claire, 8; and Jack, 6. Their first child, Wade, died in a car accident at 16, a tragedy they said has already steeled the family to hardship.

Asked whether he could carry on with his campaign -- or if successful, his duties as president -- with his wife seriously ill, Edwards said, "All I can tell you is I know from my own life experience that I can do it."

"I care about her situation. I love her. And I'm always going to care about her situation. But I understand that I have a responsibility to this country. It's why we're doing this. And that responsibility includes the ability to focus and have clarity when hard judgments have to be made. I am completely convinced that I can do that, and it's for the country to determine whether they agree."

But the former North Carolina senator said no one should vote for him out of sympathy.

"There's not a single person in America that should vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. Not a one," he said. Voting out of compassion for his family "would be an enormous mistake," he added.

"The vote for the presidency is far too important for any of those things to influence it," he said.


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