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Edwards Driving Toward 'Crunch Time' In Iowa

Edwards and his "Main Street Express". (Reuters).

DES MOINES -- With a jab at New York senator Hillary Clinton, former North Carolina senator John Edwards launched an eight-day bus tour of Iowa Monday with a populist message calling on Americans to rise up in opposition to the entrenched corporate interests who he said have derailed democracy.

Standing before a freshly decorated blue bus with the words "Main Street Express" adorned on the side and "Not Powered by PACS or lobbyists" on the rear, Edwards called out Clinton for dredging up something from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's kindergarten days, calling her criticism of Obama a sign that the campaign has entered "silly season."

He did not cite Clinton by name but the target was no less obvious when he characterized the choice before Iowa voters. "With all these great challenges we face, are we going to be looking for careful, cautious political calculation," he asked to groans from the audience. "Or are we going to be looking for bold, strong, specific leadership for the United States of America?"

Edwards's advisers call Iowa a three-way race with Obama and Clinton. The former senator's decision to avoid criticizing Obama while attacking Clinton underscored his campaign's belief that, with a strong final push here, he can convert some of the Illinois senator's soft supporters -- as long as he doesn't do anything to offend them.

Saying it's "crunch time" in Iowa, Edwards unveiled a new slogan -- "America rising" -- as he called for Iowans to take their responsibility as first-in-the-nation voters seriously. He said they should judge the candidates to determine who best can restore the bonds of trust with the American people and the rest of the world that he said have been destroyed by President Bush.

"In so many ways you area the guardians of what kind of human being we'll have as the next president of the United States," he said.

--Dan Balz

By Washington Post editors  |  December 10, 2007; 5:52 PM ET
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