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The door to 2008

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell
So for John Edwards the day has finally come to say he's in the race. Sure, all the signs have been there as he prepared to launch a new campaign, but one quirky clue goes back to March 2004.

I had been covering Edwards' campaign, tracking him on planes and buses from Iowa's surprise second-place finish through Super Tuesday, when his hope for the nomination fell apart. Those of us in his press corps headed for North Carolina, where Edwards dropped out and threw his support to John Kerry. His speech was in the gym of the high school his late son had attended. It was the end of the line for him and also for those of who wrote about his campaign.

Before heading our separate ways, a bunch of us plannedĀ one last dinner together at a Raleigh restaurant. We had a back room to ourselves making it easier to laugh and swap stories. Then came a surprise knock on the door of that back dining room. John and Elizabeth Edwards had the same idea. They had a booth in the restaurant, heard we were there and came by to send us off.

Both seemed upbeat considering very big aspirations had been dashed. They tried to show good humor as they noted how quickly they were back in civilian life. The Secret Service detail was already gone. After brief good wishes to everyone. Elizabeth Edwards turned to her husband and said "Should we tell them?" He nodded in agreement. Elizabeth explained that something unexpected happened when they checked in to their hotel the night before dropping out of the race. She set up the punch line and then delivered the big, foreshadowing hint. Their hotel room number was 2008.

Of course, we saw them again in July when he joined the Kerry ticket. But we already knew he had a key that opened the door to 2008.