Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards intends to enter the 2008 race for the White House, two Democratic officials said Saturday.

Edwards, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for six years, plans to make the campaign announcement late this month from the New Orleans neighborhood hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina last year and slow to recover from the storm.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Edwards' announcement.

As Edwards enters the crowded field, the Lower Ninth Ward provides a stark backdrop to highlight his signature issue — that economic inequality means that the country is divided into "two Americas."

Edwards also plans to travel from New Orleans through the four early presidential nominating states — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Among Democrats, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are drawing the most attention almost two years before the actual vote.

Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in Iowa. He was a top fundraiser in the race for the nomination in 2004 before he became Democratic Sen. John Kerry's running mate.

Since the Democrats' loss to President Bush, Edwards has worked to build support for a repeat presidential bid.

Edwards' spokesman, David Ginsberg, would not confirm or deny that Edwards planned to announce he would run in 2008.

Ginsberg said Edwards would make an announcement about his future when he is ready.