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The reason for the rush by the remaining presidential candidates to court John Edwards’ supporters in the legal community is obvious: Lawyers and law firms gave Edwards more than $8 million in 2007, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Now that backing — much of which came from trial lawyers — is being split between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Obama supporters include Fort Lauderdale trial lawyer Mitchell Berger who solicited contributions for Edwards in both the 2004 and 2008 campaigns. Obama was also endorsed by the name partner of a firm that was one of Edwards’ largest donors. Miami-based Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson gave $187,850 to the Edwards campaign. Now, partner Eugene Stearns says his support will move to Obama, and he will suggest the same to attorneys at his firm. In Washington, Patricia Madrid, former New Mexico attorney general and congressional candidate, and a consultant at Dickstein Shapiro who worked on Edwards’ finance committee, is going with Obama. The day Edwards dropped out, Madrid says, Federico Pe�a, the national co-chairman of Obama’s campaign, persuaded her to join. Clinton is getting her share of support, as well. John Girardi, of Los Angeles-based Girardi & Keese, which contributed $64,400 to Edwards’ campaign, says, “Since 1992, the Clinton name has been very favorable to the people I represent.” The American Association for Justice, the association for plaintiffs lawyers, will not be endorsing either candidate because it says the membership is evenly split. Last week, the group decided to begin the process of formally bundling money for both candidates. The jury is still out for some Edwards supporters. Fred Baron, a plaintiffs attorney at Dallas-based Baron and Blue and Edwards’ national finance chair, says that unless Edwards endorses someone, he’ll remain neutral. Edwards will meet with both candidates to see who might implement Edwards’ programs, he says. “We want to make sure they’re front and center in the platforms of the Democratic candidates.”
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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