Edwards Sets Sights on Super Tuesday, Upcoming Southern Contests
Edwards made campaign appearances in California, the biggest Super Tuesday state, on Wednesday and Thursday, continuing to tout his message of hope and relief for the poor and the working class.
“So many poor Americans are invisible where they are ignored, unseen and unheard. For so long, Washington has been able to dismiss poverty as a personal problem, a drug problem,” Edwards said. “Poverty has many causes but the biggest cause of all is the silence of people who can do something about it.”
On Thursday night in Los Angeles Edwards and the three other remaining Democratic contenders are scheduled to hold the last debate before the Tuesday contest.
Edwards is widely seen as the last viable challenger to Democratic front-runner Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. The ten-state contest on Tuesday could help him establish a stronger insurgent candidacy or deliver a knockout blow.
Recent public opinion polls demonstrate the challenge that Edwards faces, showing Kerry with the support of more than 50 percent of voters in the states that represent the biggest Super Tuesday prizes, New York and California.
Still, Edwards’ tone remains hopeful as he concentrates on rural and Southern Super Tuesday states. He has even looked beyond next week to the four-state Southern primary on March 9.
“We’ve got to start changing the momentum,” Edwards told reporters on Monday according to The New York Times. “We have big primaries on Tuesday. We need to do well in a group of those, and I think we have some great opportunities. Minnesota, for example, Georgia, Ohio. And we’ll compete very hard in New York and California. And then, the following week, we need to continue that momentum by doing well in a group of states I am naturally strong in: Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.”
On Thursday, the Times reported that the Edwards campaign is concentrating on three types of voters ahead of Tuesday’s contests: Southerners, former Dean supporters and union members.
Edwards has courted endorsements from former Dean state campaign coordinators, made appearances at mills and factories, and highlighted his Southern, working-class roots.
In meetings with voters, Edwards, a former trial lawyer, seeks to make a personal connection, telling them he understands what it means to grow up poor and to worry over finances.
“In contrast to Kerry’s New England reserve, Edwards is an expressive Southerner in the mold of Clinton or a televangelist,” USA Today political writer Martin Kasindorf recently wrote.
Kerry’s strong showing in the Democratic primaries has at times overshadowed Edwards, and has drawn the attention of the Republican Party and its candidate, President Bush, who has focused his attacks on the front-runner as of late.
The president alluded to Kerry in a recent speech and the Kerry and Bush camps have traded barbs over the military records of both men and defense spending.
This apparent fast-forwarding to the general election drew Edwards’ ire as he continues to fight for support in key states.
On Tuesday Edwards chided President Bush, saying his focus on Kerry was negative and premature.
“I have got a message today for somebody in Washington,” Edwards said. “And that message is this — ‘Not so fast, George Bush.’”
Edwards said the president “doesn’t get to pick our nominee and he doesn’t get to decide what this election is about. This president is so bankrupt of ideas that he can’t even wait until the Democrats pick a nominee before he starts drudging up the past and slinging mud.”
Edwards has repeatedly cast himself as the better candidate to take on the president. Poll results in Wisconsin showed that Edwards ran a strong and close second place to Kerry with the help of independents and swing voters.
“That means I can beat George W. Bush,” Edwards said.
Edwards’ Web site touts a quote from conservative Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard: “There’s not a single Republican I’ve talked to in Washington who’s not more worried about John Edwards than John Kerry.”
Still Edwards has not been able to effectively stem the Kerry tide. Some political observers have said the Edwards would have to run a negative campaign to gain real ground on Kerry, something that Edwards has been reluctant to do.
He has, however, challenged Kerry to a series of one-on-one debates and has repeatedly called Kerry a career politician.
“What I want primary voters to know is what I offer is an outsider, somebody who has new ideas about how to change this country,” Edwards told reporters on Wednesday, according to the Charlotte Observer. “Not just tinkering with programs that already exist.”