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John Edwards

He's Done It Before

Edwards, who finished strong in Iowa in 2004, is back with a polished message

December 30, 2007|Scott Martelle

This is former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' second time around as a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. By now, he has the public appearances part of the job down to an effortless routine. The eighth or ninth telling of a joke sounds just as fresh as the first, even the hesitation as he seemingly tries to recall details that he actually has mastered. It's like watching a short play over and over again, 12 to 15 minutes of stump speech and then questions until the campaign handlers decide it's time to get going to the next appearance.

Edwards has spent his largest chunk of campaign time in Iowa, and he needs to do well there, especially after losing his early lead in the polls. Without much major media coverage -- stealing some of the spotlight from Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama has proved to be difficult -- the retail politics matter even more for Edwards.

Like most good public speakers, Edwards uses humor to counter-balance the serious elements of his speeches, which he has narrowed to a succinct list of domestic policies. But Edwards also tries to portray his campaign as a populist call to eliminate poverty and homelessness, and to end corporate domination of national policy that he says was allowed by both major parties. "We need a president who believes . . . we need big change and bold ideas, not little, careful, tiny baby steps," Edwards says. "It's time for the Democratic Party to have a little backbone."

-- Scott Martelle

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