Posted: January 15, 2008 12:38 PM
Edwards Plots New Bus Tour, Challenges 'Celebrity Candidates'
America loves an underdog — something former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards may be betting on as he works to drum up more voter support.
After his third-place finish in New Hampshire, Edwards pointed out that 48 states with 99 percent of the country’s population have yet to vote.
On the heels of marathon bus tours of Iowa, New Hampshire and his native South Carolina, Edwards’ campaign announced another one dubbed the “America Rising Coast-to-Coast Tour” in a conference call with reporters on Monday. Edwards will spread his populist message of a middle class revival to the Super Tuesday states of California, Missouri, Georgia and Oklahoma.
Positioning Edwards as the outspent underdog of the middle class facing off against two celebrity candidates with deep campaign pockets, his camp also touted the results of a new Reno Gazette-Journal poll of likely Nevada voters, showing Edwards in a statistical dead-heat with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois headed into Saturday’s caucus in the state.
But Nevada polls have been few and far between compared to other early voting states.
“We feel very good where we are headed into Nevada,” said Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., Edwards’ campaign manager, citing the number of stops his candidate has made in that state and in South Carolina, which holds its Democratic contest on Jan. 26.
In the conference call, campaign staff also parroted talking points from an Edwards campaign memo obtained by the Washington Post that declares Edwards is sticking in the race through Feb. 5, when 24 states head to the polls.
“Ultimately we expect the race to narrow to one of the celebrity candidates and us,” the memo states. “And when that happens, we are confident that the remaining contests will break in our direction as voters are finally offered a choice the national media has ignored all year — the most progressive, most electable candidate in the race, John Edwards.”
The memo goes on to call both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama “deeply flawed.” Clinton is “plagued by questions over electability and continues to defend the status quo in Washington” while Obama’s New Hampshire defeat showed that “voters want a fighter.”
Edwards’ campaign also pointed out that he is just seven delegates behind Obama after Iowa and New Hampshire. But that number is a bit misleading. Clinton is ahead of Obama and Edwards so far in securing super-delegate’ votes.
According to Time.com blogger Mark Halperin, Edwards’ three best friends before Super Tuesday are the debates, his fearless strategy team (Joe Trippi, Jonathan Prince and Elizabeth Edwards) and earning the media’s respect.
The Post’s Dan Balz predicted that Edwards will face a moment of truth after the Democrats’ South Carolina primary.
“In a year that has proved prognosticators wrong, Edwards may think there is still a path for him,” he wrote in a weekend analysis piece. “But against two opponents as skilled and as well-financed as Clinton and Obama, the space for an underfunded Edwards, particularly an Edwards who hasn’t won a contest, diminishes rapidly.”
“If he concludes he cannot be the nominee,” Balz continued, “what will he conclude about the role he wants to play — if any — to influence the eventual outcome? That’s why he should not be forgotten.”
Edwards is headed to Nevada on Tuesday for a town hall meeting in Las Vegas and a debate hosted by MSNBC.