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John Edwards is backwith a retooled rsum and a lot of love for Iowans [View All]

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IDemo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-09-06 09:22 AM
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By Jonathan Darman

July 17, 2006 issue - It's friday night in iowa and an old politician is trying some new tricks. John Edwards is backback, with the familiar deep drawl, dark tan and honeyed hair. Gone, though, are the old catchphrases"two Americas" and "hope is on the way." In their place: a long meditation on America's moral obligation to confront the plight of its poor. "Thirty-seven million of our people, worried about feeding and clothing their children," he said to his audience. "Aren't we better than that?" It's not the stuff of great sound bites, but it's part of Edwards's new political plan: a presidential campaign with fighting poverty as a central plank. It's a risky strategy in today's Democratic PartyEdwards may be the most viable national candidate since Bobby Kennedy to tie his destiny to a fight for the destitute. "Yeah, I heard all that stuff: 'Who cares?' or 'It's a dead end'," Edwards tells NEWSWEEK. "Well, it's what I want to do."

Rebel outsider is an odd role for the Democratic Party's most recent vice presidential candidate to play. Yet Edwards's 2008 presidential campaignstill hypothetical but proceeding at high speedis all about breaking with the established script. He's largely opted out of the buzz primaryleaving candidates like former Virginia governor Mark Warner and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh to convince Beltway insiders and media types that they're the best alternatives to front runner Hillary Clinton. Instead, he's using the name recognition he built up in '04 and hitting the campaign trail early and oftenquietly raising $6.5 million in 105 appearances for Democrats running in 2006.

His under-the-radar strategy is paying off, in Iowa at least. A June Des Moines Register poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers had Edwards leading a pack of potential presidential candidates that included other widely known names like Clinton, 2004 ticketmate John Kerry and even Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Edwards is certainly not the only candidate hustling in corn-countryWarner and Bayh visited within days of his most recent visitbut with 10 trips to the state since the beginning of 2005, he's logged more time there than any candidate in either party. This time, they're counting on Iowa, which brought John Kerry's candidacy back from the dead in 2004, to propel them into New Hampshire, and beyond. To win, Edwards must leverage his 2004 visibility, shake off the disappointment many Democrats felt at the campaign and emerge from Kerry's shadow as a worthy candidate in his own right.

Edwards talks about 2004 like it was a lifetime ago. His wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after the election. "We just threw ourselves into it," he recalls. "I went with Elizabeth to every chemo test." The twin traumaslosing a national election and watching a spouse sufferwere an enormous emotional load. But Elizabeth's illness helped Edwards keep the election loss in perspective. "The adjustment wasn't that hard," he says, "because I was so focused on getting her well." /

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