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Marathon is entering the final mile

Any of them could win in Iowa: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards among the Democrats; Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee among Republicans. In hundreds of campaign appearances and thousands of television ads, they have tried to build rounded images of themselves and how they would govern. But their campaigns contain several central propositions. Below are some of the primary arguments that the Iowa front-runners are making for themselves.

January 03, 2008|Seema Mehta

ATLANTIC, IOWA — In the dead of night, John Edwards was driven down an unpaved road to a rustic farmhouse in this tundra-like patch of western Iowa. Several dozen supporters gathered after midnight to greet the presidential candidate as he barnstormed the state before Iowa holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses today.

"We are moving. We have momentum!" he said.

Edwards was one-third of the way through his 36-hour "Marathon for the Middle Class," which began with a rally in Ames on New Year's morning; threaded around the state to house parties, coffee shops, campaign offices and phone banks; and was to be capped by a rally Wednesday night with singer John Mellencamp in West Des Moines.

His journey, a publicity-generating endurance event evoking memories of similar gambits by Michael S. Dukakis and Bill Clinton, was meant to underscore the energetic image Edwards is trying to build with voters. The former North Carolina senator paints a picture of Americans held down by big corporations, who have bought undue influence with both political parties to create a corrupt Washington system. He has tried to paint himself as a fighter eager to take on powerful interests.

"We're not sleeping, we're working," Edwards said at 9 a.m. Wednesday, some 22 hours into his trip, as he delivered coffee to the press bus. "I want people to know what kind of work ethic I have and what kind of work ethic I'm going to have when I'm president of the United States."

The tour also reflected the tight race in Iowa, with polls showing Edwards in nearly a dead heat with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Every undecided voter Edwards reached was crucial.

Among them was Dave Hood, 50, who visited Edwards' Council Bluffs headquarters Wednesday night.

"I want to know what he can do for me as a worker, [and on] healthcare, the environment and the war in Iraq," said the Honey Creek resident.

Helen Pigg, 84, an Edwards precinct captain and retired teacher, squeezed into the kitchen of a home the candidate visited. "This is totally unreal," she said, scanning a crush of supporters, campaign staff and reporters. "We just feel really honored. He's for the common man."

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