Elizabeth Edwards focuses on health care

Elizabeth Edwards says she is discouraged that health care may fall low in the nation's priorities as the U.S. struggles through an economic crisis.

In her first speech since her husband, one-time Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, publicly admitted to an extramarital affair, Elizabeth Edwards said Tuesday night that the nation's economic problems may draw attention and money that might have been spent on fixing the health care system.

She questioned the health care policies of both presidential candidates, saying that she has almost nothing good to say about Republican candidate John McCain's health plan. She also questioned why Democratic nominee Barack Obama wouldn't mandate health care for all.

Edwards did not mention her personal life or husband.

John and Elizabeth Edwards have both avoided speaking publicly since he acknowledged in early August that he had a “liaison” with a woman hired to produce videos of him in 2006. John Edwards, a two-time Democratic presidential candidate and former N.C. senator, has canceled all of his public events until after the election. He has said he doesn't want to be a distraction with November's elections looming.

Elizabeth Edwards has only discussed the affair in a statement provided by aides in early August and posted on a liberal blog. She pleaded for privacy then and said her husband had told her of the affair in 2006.

Gary Pearce, a Democratic consultant who advised John Edwards' successful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1998, said there are still some honest questions that Elizabeth Edwards hasn't answered about her knowledge of the affair. Namely, why she allowed her husband to run for the presidency with such a dark secret and when exactly she learned about it.

But he said it was also difficult to lob criticism at a couple that's gone through so much.

Though quiet on the affair, Elizabeth Edwards has won praise for publicly divulging the details of some of the most wrenching moments of her life, including the death of a teenage son and her bout with breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 2004. After treatment, she announced in 2007 that the cancer had returned in an incurable form.

Edwards now blogs about health care as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, although she hasn't posted entries since the affair was publicized.

She's been a frequent critic of McCain, arguing at one point that his health care proposal wouldn't cover people like her with preexisting conditions.