Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Edwards Suggests Obama, Clinton Could Cost Swing States"

Iowa Independent:
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards Sunday warned Iowa voters about what he perceives as the perils of nominating a candidate who down-ticket Democrats in some parts of the nation may decline to appear with in their own campaign events.
Speaking in Carroll, Edwards made the observation after saying there are "three of us who are most likely to be the Democratic nominee."

"It's not just a question of who you like," Edwards said. "It's not just a question of whose vision you are impressed with. It's also a question of who is most likely to win the general election. It's a pretty simple thing. Who will be a stronger candidate in the general election here in the State of Iowa? Who can go to other parts of the country when we have swing candidates running for the Congress and the Senate? Is the candidate going to have to say, 'Don't come here. Don't come here and campaign with me. I can't win if you campaign with me.'"

He added later, "I think it's just a reality that I can campaign anyplace in America."

Edwards is one of the top Democratic contenders in polls and fund-raising along with U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D, N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

In an interview with Iowa Independent and The Carroll Daily Times Herald, Edwards strongly rejected the suggestion that his comments about being the most electable candidate in the Democratic field were a way of saying America won't vote for a black man (Obama) or woman (Clinton) without actually saying it - to a largely white, elderly rural audience in Carroll with no national media present.

"No, I think there are differences," Edwards said. "First of all, if you look at who led on the big issues that America will be faced with I came out with a universal health-care plan first. I am so far the only candidate with a truly universal health-care plan. I came out with an aggressive energy plan to deal with global warming, to transform the way we do energy."

Edwards said he's the only candidate to focus seriously on poverty, and that he's more willing to tackle substantial and potentially politically costly issues than his opponents.

About 175 people filled a Carrollton Centre banquet room heavily decorated with campaign banners and posters for a town-hall style forum with Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and the 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president. Edwards delivered no prepared remarks and jumped right into a question-and-answer session that was dominated with domestic issues, particularly health-care.

Some members of the audience pressed Edwards on how he would combat aggressive campaign tactics from Republicans of the brand that helped sink U.S. Sen. John Kerry's Democratic presidential bid in 2004.

Edwards said he would seek to link the Republican candidate with President George W. Bush. If the North Carolinian is the nominee, and reaches a general election debate, Edwards said, he would point to his opponent and tell the audience, "This guy right here is George Bush on steroids."

The majority of Edwards' time then moved to health-care issues. Edwards has released what he terms a universal health coverage plan.

"It is aggressive," Edwards said. "I'll be the first to tell you that."

Among other things, his plan would provide for mental-health parity and mandate the use of more efficient record-keeping and preventative medicine. He would also deny patents to pharmaceutical companies for breakthrough drugs. Companies that develop such drugs would be given "cash incentives" instead, with the drugs becoming generic and therefore available to more people at lower costs, he said.

The plan is estimated to cost between $90 billion to $120 billion annually, The Associated Press and USA Today have reported.

In Carroll, Edwards said some of the money for the program would come from higher taxes on families making more than $200,000 annually.

Edwards said the plan has a focus on specific rural initiatives. For example, he would offer tuition assistance for medical students who agree to practice in underserved areas for at least five years.

"I'd do the same thing for nurses," Edwards said.

On the issue of illegal immigration, Edwards said he would support tougher controls on the border, stronger sanctions on employers who hire illegal workers and requiring immigrants to learn English. He doesn't want the system for immigration to be easy, reasoning that the nation then could end up with permanent "second class workers."

In the interview following his town-hall event Sunday night, Edwards said he is concerned about the disproportionate burden rural America is shouldering in the war in Iraq, in terms of service and casualties.

"If you're out campaigning in Iowa and rural places in America you see and hear it all the time," Edwards. "First of all, I think we should end the war in Iraq. That's the global solution."

When pressed as to whether rural America's participation in the war stems from heightened patriotism or fewer economic opportunities, Edwards said: "I think it's probably some of both."

Among the audience were some loyal Edwards supporters and others there to kick the tires of the candidates.

Lloyd DeMoss of Arcadia, 67, said he is supporting Edwards in 2008, just as he did in 2004.

"He's really tuned into the people and I thought his whole presentation here was based on allowing the folks to get next to him with their questions and respond to them rather than come in with a canned speech," DeMoss, who is retired, said. "I've seen both sides of him and this went exceptionally well."

Attorney David Bruner of Carroll, an undecided voter, said he was intrigued with Edwards' health-care plan.

"Something needs to be done in that area obviously and he's put some thought into this and he said it was his passion," said Bruner, whose father, the late Robert Bruner ran for Carroll County attorney on the same ticket once with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Bruner said he wants to see all the candidates who come to Carroll before making a decision.

"I think it is important to see them face to face," Bruner said.
Howie P.S.: John is polling a distant third in his birth state, South Carolina.

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