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Edwards Continues to Amp Up The Rhetoric

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AMES, Iowa -- John Edwards continues to raise the rhetorical stakes in his bid to win the Democratic nomination, taking a clear swipe at Barack Obama by insisting that any candidate who preaches political conciliation is not in touch with political reality.

"Anybody who thinks this fight is not going to happen is living in never-never land," said Edwards at the first stop of a 36-hour campaign marathon aimed at highlighting issues important to the middle class.

Later, the candidate dismissed the idea that sitting down across the table from entrenched interests could bring about real change, calling such a notion a "complete and total fantasy," adding: "That will never happen." Sticking to the combative tone, Edwards also said, "The tough going is coming. You can't be naive about this."

Edwards's sharp rhetoric is aimed at peeling away undecided voters from Obama in the final hours of the Iowa campaign. The two men are competing for a similar strain of voters -- people who have decided they won't be voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton but remain undecided about whether Edwards or Obama is the real change agent in the race.

As we've written before, that choice is more about style than substance. Edwards is passionate (or angry), the man ready to fight for your rights. Obama is the sometimes somber force, insisting that change is about bringing people together rather than pulling them apart.

Whose message is more appealing? That depends on the perspective of the voter. Sick of the Bush administration and want to send a message to Washington insiders? Edwards is likely your guy. Ready for an end to partisanship and looking for something larger to believe in? Obama all the way.

The key question, which we don't know the answer to just yet, is how many Iowans remain undecided about the Democratic field AND how many of them will actually turn out to caucus Thursday night.

Joe Trippi, Edwards's campaign manager, admitted that it's almost impossible to know who will caucus and in what numbers. He predicted that if roughly 150,000 people turn out (25,000 more than in 2004) that Edwards would be "right there." He added: "If it gets to 220,000, who knows?"

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 1, 2008; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Clinton Pitches Her Experience; Disputes Register Poll
Next: Mitt vs. Mike -- The Final Countdown


Check out this article, it outlines a strategy on how the Edwards campaign could defeat Hillary Clinton. Check it out at

Posted by: thirdrailradio | January 21, 2008 5:31 AM | Report abuse

Edwards gives a good speech and I agree with him on a number of issues, but his one term in the Senate was not distinguished by any notable legislative accomplishment. He was unpopular in his home state to boot and probably would not have been reelected to the Senate if he had run. He is a good messenger, but not good enough to be the standard-bearer for the party.

Posted by: wesfromGA | January 2, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

leuchtman writes
"I'm still very curious as to what people think the storyline will be if Edwards wins by five points or so and Obama comes in a weak third. Anybody want to play with that thought?"

On what do you base that prediction? The News Hour on PBS interviewed the primary pollster for the Des Moines Register to discuss their recent (controversial) poll. She said that when you only count people who will 'definitely' caucus, Obama still wins. Under what scenario does Edwards win 'by 5 points or so' and Obama comes in third? Is there a poll predicting such an outcome or are you just imagining a possible scenario for entertainment purposes?

The data I've seen (some of which is admittedly no longer current) implies that Obama and Edwards, despite relying disproportionately on first-time caucusers, will win Iowa. The reason is that they have more support as '2nd choice' than HRC does. Both Obama & Edwards seem to inspire a lot more passion from their supporters, which I think will carry them both to victories over Sen Clinton. We'll find out soon enough!

Posted by: bsimon | January 2, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Ok, here's the thing, its obvious that if Obama's campaign can turn out a ton of first time caucus-goers, he'll win. I'm skeptical about that, especially with the caucuses coming right after a holiday. I'm still very curious as to what people think the storyline will be if Edwards wins by five points or so and Obama comes in a weak third. Anybody want to play with that thought?

Posted by: leuchtman | January 2, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

BJLeone - because even if Edwards wins Iowa, he will soon run out of money thereafter... or else be required to constantly fundraise for the balance of the campaign. Only if every candidate were required to take public funding would the competition be fair, and that ain't gonna happen, unfortunately.

I'm curious as to whether your opinion of public financing would be the same if Edwards had been more successful in his fundraising...?

Posted by: bokonon13 | January 2, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

harried wrote
"I thought they outlawed blimps after the Hindenburg."

Actually, the Hindenburg was a dirigible, not a blimp.

Posted by: bsimon | January 2, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Actually, the Washington Post only the other day reported on Obama's 100 million dollar war chest only 1/4 of which is from small donations. A lot, like Hillary, is from "bundlers" whose identity neither of them will reveal. If he truly wanted to change cmapaign financing like he says, why doesn't he go to public matching like Edwards?

Posted by: BJLeone | January 2, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

All this rubbish about how 'angry' Edwards is... that's the CW narrative, how the media has decided to frame it. Just like Dean. Just another way of destroying a decent guy. He's not perfect, but I certainly prefer him to a robot like mitt.

If you're not among the well-off in this country you are probably pretty angry and rightly so -- because you understand that the idea that there is a level playing field is a myth. If you're working 3 jobs to survive and you know that someone who was born wealthy and lives off their inheritance pays 3% of their income in taxes and you pay 30%, it probably seems a bit unfair.

Instead of giving something back like the wealthiest families often used too, now they simply take more and more.

Posted by: drindl | January 2, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

In the primary election of 1912, populist William Jennings Bryant ran on a similar platform as Edwards. But being used goods by that point (he ran twice--and lost twice--before), they instead went with a quiet professor who they felt would bring some necessary moderation to the White House and the Democratic Party.

They chose Dr. Thomas Woodrow Wilson, PhD. And what did we get from President Wilson? Well, we got some of the most progressive policies of that time, Louis Brandeis was appointed to the Supreme Court, and we won the First World War.

Populism has never got anyone elected historically speaking. FDR never ran as a populist, and in many ways, was more than willing to do business with corporations because they served their purposes (as WWII would bore out).

The closest president that ran successfully as a populist was Andrew Jackson, and that isn't the best example given that was, oh, nearly two hundred years ago. Never mind the conditions surrounding Jackson's run were a bit more complex. In this manner, Edwards is a wanna-be Jacksonian, but that's like comparing an amateur golfer to Tiger Woods.

Let's face it. If anything, Edwards is just spoiling Obama's candidacy with his nonsensical campaign. He hasn't any money, he hasn't the national organization, and if he were to get the nomination he'd be running on federal matching funds--not quite a winner's touch. All he'd do is make it easier for Hillary to capture the nomination, so please folks do not waste your vote on a well-meaning but surely misguided populist and VOTE OBAMA!!!


Posted by: cosadler | January 2, 2008 3:01 AM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza: Zdravstvuyte!

Why is it I always want to write Russian when reading posts like this? The idea that Edwards will fight against "entrenched interests" - and that the MSM refuses to call him on that claim - is truly something straight out of the Soviet Union. See, for just one example, this:

Does CC have any journalistic integrity whatsoever?

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | January 2, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

I am sick unto death at ignoramuses taking shots at the Post for being a "tool of corporate interests" and other such blather. Anyone who reads the Post knows that Chris, Dan, and many, many others are busting their tails every day to bring Post readers the best idea they can of what's going on in politics. To ignorantly and inaccurately dismiss them all as corporate shills is not only nonsensical, it reveals more quickly than anything else the essential dumbness of the person who posts such drivel.
Where do you suppose you get the information that has you all fired up about corporate power?

Posted by: chuckmcf | January 2, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Edwards' anger is "inappropriate?" Come on! How can a right-thinking person respond to the Bush administration with anything BUT anger! Whether it's waging needless wars, shameless corporate pandering, or sh!tcanning the Constitution, the only possible sane response to it is rage! Obama and Clinton's pretense that business as usual is still possible is just code to the Establishment that they won't shake things up too much. Edwards/Biden 2008. (It should be Biden/Edwards, but I can't see the underdog winning to that extent.)

Posted by: martimr1 | January 1, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse

I see Obama's fan base has turned out for the New Year's, and are happily regurgitating the "Angry Democrat" Conservative talking point.

But then, that's what Obama is all about, isn't it?

As far as anger goes, and Obama's talking point that "there's no shortage of anger and bluster":

Is it wrong to be "angry" that the Bush administration has turned us into a nation of torturers? Is it wrong to be "angry" that the Republicans took us to war under false pretenses? Is it "bluster" to say that Cheney's claim to be the Fourth Branch of government is absurd? Is it "bluster" to demand our Fourth Amendment rights back?

Edwards is right. With the Conservative Movement, "You can't nice them to death. You try and nice them to death, they'll trample all over you."

Obama wants to sing kumbaya with the same people who brought us Bush. It won't happen.

Posted by: lambert_strether1 | January 1, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Edwards rage does not make sense. Do we want an angry President? One who wants to fight the bad guys and not have any dialogue. That sounds like Bush to me. Bush doesn't want to talk about things. He just wants to fight. I honestly don't understand Edwards. I don't want a President just like Bush.

Posted by: goldie2 | January 1, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Is it anger, or is it righteous indignation? There's a difference.
I see Edwards on the side of righteous indignation. I WANT a president who is going to shove up his sleeves and finish the fight that the corporations started.
Edwards is the best hope for middle class Americans. I could live with Obama, but Clinton is so completely sided with the corporations anyone who thinks she will bring change to DC is dreaming.

Posted by: Spiralshell | January 1, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

bokonon13 - you said "History has shown us repeatedly the unintended costs of such simplistic policies." You have somehow implied a link between the fight of John Edwards to protect the middle class and the Bush presidency?

I suppose you are a person who thinks that entrenched interests are so powerful and that clearly normal people can never get anything done in the face of powerful politicians and corporations. This is not how politics works. If Edwards is President he and Congress can do as they please. I am pretty sure no corporations have seats in Congress and if people would have the guts to elect a President who is willing to change our nation, we could change our nation. Until then, elect Obama who will preach nonsense and do nothing.

p.s. To be honest, I don't think Edwards will win the nomination but I support him anyway. But if Obama is nominated, he is going to get trounced by Rudy, McCain or Romney in the general.

Posted by: morning135 | January 1, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Truth, I saw your web page and your photo-op!
Are you angling for communications director in the JB Admin? :-)

Thanks for clarifying that JB is NOT throwing in any towels.

Let us know how your precinct voted, tomorrow.

Happy New Year.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 1, 2008 9:50 PM | Report abuse

harried - I read CC to describe Edwards' speech as "sharp rhetoric", which was appropriate.

Blimps are now filled with helium, not hydrogen. Helium is inert, and will not support flame.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 1, 2008 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I pray to GOD Edwards wants to cut troops--his career is OVA--we are winning the war! Goodbye Dems!!!!

Posted by: sem-report-card | January 1, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

The state of Iowa has many attractions. The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are located in West Branch. They contain the birthplace and grave of former president Herbert Hoover along with his Presidential museum.
Geez, the birthplace of Hebert Hoover!

Posted by: harried | January 1, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

ttj1, it is my understanding that Obama had fantastic fundraising results at least in part because so many new donors were sending him small amounts. I know it was mentioned in this space more than once... so help me out, how does that make him beholden to big corporations?

Posted by: bokonon13 | January 1, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

For all you Phi Beta Kappas out there, Cillazza thinks "RHETORIC" is a negative!

Rhetoric...The art of speaking and writing effectively.

Maybe you and the rest of your Washington Post stenographers should try it Cillizza!

PS: I thought they outlawed blimps after the Hindenburg.

Posted by: harried | January 1, 2008 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if Edwards can fire up enough Iowans. His message is great for Dems, but will it be enough?

Posted by: parkerfl | January 1, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

TTj1 I want to believe you but I don't. Edwards scares the crap out of me lately. Millions of Americans depend on this corporations he's saying he's going to fight. No one likes the power the big corporations have gotten from themselves but millions of American workers depend on them, what happens to their employees when you start fighting corporations? Obama is right when he says everyone will get a seat at the table, even the big bad corporations.

Posted by: lumi21us | January 1, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Gee, I wonder how many Edwards is the "angry man" columns the Washington Post will run before the Caucuses? Do you think they're trying to set a record?

Posted by: pmorlan1 | January 1, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Lumi21us, I don't think you are interpreting Edward´s' message correctly. He never said he wouldn't negotiate with corporations. He only said that he would put voters' interests before those of corporations. You didn't hear that from Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton because they are getting all their campaign money from corporations. Hillary Clinton flat out said that she thinks corporations "are people, too," when it comes to getting influence with the government. If you want more of what we've seen from government in the past 40 years, vote for Obama and/or Clinton, because that's what they are promising you--more of the same!

Posted by: ttj1 | January 1, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I used to like Edwards just a couple of weeks ago, but when he started with his mad man ranting and saying he'll fight every corporation in America and bring them down to their knees he just turned me off totally. I'm an Obama supporter but I used to think Edwards was alright, not any longer. Americans will never elect someone this angry with venom spewing from his mouth every time he speaks. We love our country, we don't want to tear it any further down. Bush has done enough damage. Edwards now sounds like a lunatic. Americans will never elect a ranting maniac. He makes Howard Dean's rant minimal.

Posted by: lumi21us | January 1, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Chris or anyone,

It would be nice for someone to do research into John Edwards' cases as a trial attorney because, as a trial attorney myself, I often end up negotiating with insurance carriers for a settlement. I am sure Edwards has as well given that only a small percentage of cases actually go to a jury. Edwards' claim to never negotiate with corporations rings quite hollow.

Posted by: singleagainat27 | January 1, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Mark in Austin, Biden isn't talking about anything but winning. I feel when caucus goers who like Biden but don't think he has has a chance see people standing for him at the caucuses they will join the Biden group... and Biden made the same observation today.

Posted by: Truth_Hunter | January 1, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

bokonon, your 6:32P post was unassailably

McC has repeated not only his willingness to work across the aisle, but the absolute necessity ["My friends, neither party will have 60 votes in the Senate..."], his own history of bipartisan bill support, and even his cordial relationship with Harry Reid.

Truth, I hope the 40k D caucus goers who never went before are for JB!
Btw, has JB suggested a "second option?"

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 1, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Here is the the video Biden released today:


Senator Biden remarked, "I can hardly wait to debate Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee when they accuse the Democrats of having no moral authority to lead. Where is the morality in providing an addition $85 billion tax cut for those who make an average of $1.4 million a year? And, not providing health insurance for America's children - or letting American's who fall pray to a catastrophic illness lose all they have? What is moral about maintaining a prison at Guantanamo Bay and allowing torture as U.S. policy?"

If this video link doesn't work, there is a link on my blog site:

Posted by: Truth_Hunter | January 1, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Kucinich endorses Obama for 2nd Choice to himself in Iowa !
Good for you Kucinich ! (& Biden too if so !)
Good for Iowa !
Great for America !

Barack Obama for President .

It's time to Rise and Shine again.

Posted by: PulSamsara | January 1, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

It sure will be interesting to hear the pundits and MSM react to the largest Democratic turnout in Iowa caucus history. Inside the beltway you can't hear the disappointment and anger with the status quo. Anyone who has been part of the last 7 years (and more) of political fiasco that the Republicans have bullied through and the Democrats haven't been willing or able to stop, will feel the voters wrath in the next election. Look what's happening on the streets!

Posted by: thebobbob | January 1, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

For those interested in candidates besides the poll/media anointed ones, there is a report on today's Biden rally on my blog:

To say it was well attended is an understatement... it was SRO overflow on a subfreezing New Year's day. And, these supporters are caucus goers.

Posted by: Truth_Hunter | January 1, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

river845 -

it does not seem to me that "Obama believes corporations have a proper amount of power." He DOES believe "that they can" - MUST - "be negotiated with" --- after all, what's the alternative? The political and financial muscle of the business community can't be disputed, and to pretend that it can is make-believe. And the "business community" is made up of American citizens, too, and thus has ample representation in Congress. Do you propose that legislative bodies be ignored, and Edwards be given the right to rule by decree? Of course you don't, and because you don't, you have to acknowledge that there is a touch of "divisive" and "class warfare" about his policies. Whether or not I sympathize with his position, it is not one that would work given the system we have, and especially our recent history of partisan excesses. We can undo the damage of the past 7 years without re-fighting the partisan wars of 1994-2006. I do not believe that Obama is in any way naive about the way the system works - it is Edwards who seems to be saying that the righteous anger of the masses will be enough to unite his Two Americas. History has shown us repeatedly the unintended costs of such simplistic policies.

Posted by: bokonon13 | January 1, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Mark, we'll see how voters in the GOP primary sort out McCain vs. Romney... we'll also see how many crossover votes he could attract - definitely against Hillary, less but still some vs. Edwards and Obama. If he is the nominee, he would have to have some centrist votes to win I think, but his embrace of right wing Christians (awkward though it was) and continued support of an agressive military posture elsewhere in the world might make it hard for him, at least hardER. Yes, I think he would beat Clinton, and he might beat Obama or Edwards, too, but in those cases I think he would have to focus more on appealing to moderates, which might dilute his message. If there's another security event - probably would have to be more serious then Bhutto, and would have to be close-ish to November - he wins. If not, his past support of Bush will make it difficult. How do you think he would work with a Democratic Congress? he never seemed like a GOP partisan to me, but he's recently been talking the talk...

Posted by: bokonon13 | January 1, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

The differences between Edwards and Obama are not "style". They are substance.

Obama believes corporations have a proper amount of power and that they can be negotiated with.

Edwards believes that TOO MUCH power and are strangling our democracy, and killing us.

Edwards would be like Teddy Roosevelt. Obama like Mr. Rogers.

Edwards calls the corporate state for what it is. Obama pretends people won't know it is there.

The Washington Post is part of the corporate media, and so says that there are no differences, and we should just pick the person whose "approach" makes us feel better.

For shame!

The Post can do better than this. They would too, if they weren't a corporate propaganda tool.

Posted by: river845 | January 1, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Boko, the "old" centrist D Sen. Edwards from NC is no longer. That man could have won a national election with a little seasoning. This one has now been "blessed" by Ralph Nader.

the "old" Edwards used to run ahead of all other candidates in national polling. This is no longer the case, and as you point out, BHO runs ahead now. And McC runs way ahead of Rs and ahead of all Ds except BHO.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 1, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Why are you retyping Joe Trippi's spin without correcting it ?
150 000 is medium-high estimate. If 120 000 people show up which is around what it was last time, it means it s mostly regulars and Edwards is indeed right there. The highest estimate I have ever seen was 200 000 and that's quite far-fetched.
Most likely it will be between 120 000 and 180 000 with the lowest better for JRE and the highest better for Obama and anywhere in between some kind of strange inconclusive muddle.
220 000 is clearly a spin since Trippi knows it will never go to these heights and want anything underneath to sound like a disappointment for Obama.

Posted by: doriansaintier | January 1, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

The confusing caucus process turns off voters. Primary elections make more sense than this nonsense.

Posted by: Digital_Voter | January 1, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

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