Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Obama And Edwards Split On Poverty Plans"

CBS News:
On the last day of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' three-day tour of poverty stricken rural America, rival Sen. Barack Obama spoke Wednesday in Washington about how to improve life for the poor in urban America.
Obama spoke of the need to improve the odds for urban America, advocating an expansion of the earned-income tax credit and subsidized transitional jobs programs. He also urged the coupling of government assistance with local philanthropies and businesses to create organizations that combat poverty in urban communities across the nation.

At one point, Obama seemed to take aim at Edwards, who has tried to make poverty the main issue of his candidacy.

"This kind of poverty is not an issue I just discovered for the purposes of a campaign," Obama stressed just nine minutes into his comments. "It is the cause that led me to a life of public service almost twenty-five years ago."

The timing of Obama's speech - scheduled on the same day that Edwards scheduled his tour's finale in Kentucky - suggests that Obama plans on fighting Edwards for title of defender of the poor. In fact, Obama pointed out he turned down lucrative offers at major law firms to return to the south side of Chicago as a community organizer, while Edwards went on to make millions as a trial lawyer before beginning his career in public service.

Jonathan Prince, Edwards' campaign manager, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that while Obama had "been working hard throughout his life to make a difference," Edwards was "committed to the issue of poverty long before he was in public life."

Asked about Obama's comment, Prince responded by emphasizing Edwards' record on the issue, adding, "I have no reason to think that Senator Obama was talking about Senator Edwards at all."

With a slight jab of their own, Edwards aides claimed their candidate is setting the agenda when to comes to issues like poverty.

"It's just another sign of the effect that John Edwards is having on this race by leading on these issues and getting other candidates to follow," said Edwards strategist Joe Trippi.

Edwards has called poverty the cause of his life and points out that after his unsuccessful vice-presidential bid in 2004, he returned to the state he represented in the Senate to run University of North Carolina's poverty center.

In a new campaign ad airing in New Hampshire, his wife Elizabeth also takes up the theme, telling voters that Edwards "has an unbelievable toughness, particularly about other people, and that is his ability to fight for them."

Yet Obama supporters, such as Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who introduced the Senator at today's speech, believe that Obama has exhibited the most commitment to inner cities and offers the "best…plan for urban America."

Edwards' and Obama's recent plans to fight poverty have different demographic aims, too. Edwards' tour targeted "restoring hope to rural America," traveling in eight states in the South and the West, while Obama only traveled from the U.S. Capitol across the Anacostia River to speak to communities plagued by unemployment, inadequate health care and weak economies.

Both Obama and Edwards stressed the need for government intervention to reduce poverty. Both candidates talk about the importance of job growth and family literacy. Both propose programs to partner low-income families with nurses that offer home visits to help prepare new mothers and mothers-to-be. And both men have invoked Bobby Kennedy's poverty tours through the Mississippi Delta and Kentucky 40 years ago.

Obama talked about the plight of Washington's poor, who live in the shadow of the White House and the Capitol.

"The streets here are close to our capitol, but far from the people it represents. These Americans cannot hire lobbyists to roam the halls of Congress on their behalf, and they cannot write thousand-dollar campaign checks to make their voices heard," said Obama.

Meantime, in rural southwestern Virginia, some voiced concerns to Edwards that the attention his tour brings might reinforce stereotypes the rest of America harbors towards the rural poor.

"These challenges don't define the people of this area," Edwards said, the Associated Press reported. "Their strength and defiance and courage define them. We're here to help."
Howie P.S.: The article doesn't reflect the "split" that the headline refers to.

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