Dealing with inevitability

History keeps hope alive for former Sen. John Edwards.

He is on the campaign bus again this week, rolling down some of the same Iowa highways he has been traversing for years now.

But when a reporter brought up the aura of “inevitability” surrounding the national front-runners, Edwards leaned forward and offered a flashback to 2003.

It was around this time that summer, when he was driving down these Iowa highways still trying to get recognized, that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean looked like the Democrat’s likely nominee.

“I lived through an ‘inevitable’ campaign in 2003,” he told a small group of reporters, with his wife, Elizabeth, grinning at his side.

Edwards’ point is that it’s early. That anyone who thinks the nominations can be wrapped up five months before the first caucus votes are cast in Iowa just doesn’t know their history.

That’s his hope — that with an Iowa caucus win, he’ll gain the momentum to overtake Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama and then keep winning.

Still, as the bus rumbled between the cornfields, Edwards conceded that this election season is moving at break-neck speed. At this point before the January 2004 caucuses, “I didn’t feel this level of intensity,” he said.

This time, he starts with a bigger name, but he’s up against two others who have been hogging much of the national spotlight. So in a series of stops Monday — from Des Moines to Perry, Jefferson, Carroll and beyond, he took a stab at the auras surrounding both of his leading rivals.

Edwards implied that Clinton is too much of an establishment figure in an era that demands change. What’s more, he said, she has declined to be specific on things like universal health care, apparently trying to blur any distinctions between Democrats.

“Sen. Clinton takes the stage in debate after debate and says, ‘We’re all for the same thing.'” Edwards said. “If that’s true, where is her proposal?”

He gives Obama credit for offering a detailed health care plan — even if he disagrees with it. But then he questions Obama’s claim for the change-agent mantle.

“I don’t think you can change things by just compromising.”

Iowa has long been considered an Edwards stronghold, but one recent poll suggests it’s now a three-way dead-heat. And this week Clinton’s campaign announced its first TV ad blitz in Iowa, portraying her as the candidate who stands up for working people.

That hits right at the core of Edwards’ populist appeal, built on his frequent speeches about the plight of workers and the poor.

As Edwards heard in an audience member’s question in Jefferson on Monday, some voters can’t decide between him and Obama as a Clinton alternative.

“I think both of them represent a distinct change in America, and I think America is ready. We want something dramatic done,” said farmer Gene Blanshan of Panora, who asked Edwards to draw contrasts. “(Clinton) certainly is not ‘Bush lite.’ She’s just not the advocate of change I’d like to see.”

Edwards makes it sound as if this part — the primary contest — will be the toughest part of winning the White House.

Get him to the general election, and “the case is not hard.” He said he’ll get into the debate, stand next to a Republican and tell voters: “Want four more years of the war in Iraq? Vote for him. Want four more years of what you’re paying for health insurance today . . . ? Do you like what you’re paying for gasoline? Do you like what happened to America in the world? Vote for him.”

But can Edwards continue marching toward that debate stage? So much of his hopes hinge on Iowa that this is where the question will be answered. So that’s why, yet again, he’s riding the roads between the cornfields.

(Contact M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News at


  1. Cailleach

    Yes!! I like John Edwards, who earned his wealth and saw his father work in the mills. He knows what it’s like to be poor and to work hard. If you look into the background of any candidate, you will find something (or many things) worse than a $400 haircut. So he’s a trial lawyer. So bite me. He stood up for poor people against hospitals and incompetent doctors. I’m the daughter of a doctor who, If he were still living, would be livid at the way medecine is practiced today. I find more to like in Edwards than any other candidate today. I feel he can make a real change for the better in American society and restore the Constitution.

  2. pondering_it_all

    Edwards also has an important advantage over Clinton: He could actually win the general election! Senator Clinton would probably make a fine President, but I think her negatives are too high with the Independant Voters to win.

    There are just too many rabid Clinton-haters out there, and all of Bill’s baggage gets heaped on Hillory’s cart, fair or not.

    Then there are all the simpletons who don’t even understand the issues but pick their candidate on silly things like race or appearance. All the men with deep-seated gender/power issues. All the women who can’t trust other women because they see them as competitors…

    Unfortunately, I think Senator Clinton will likely win the nomination and then lose the general election.

  3. JudyB

    I have read enough about his $400 hair cut, his enormous house and the fact that he is called by naysayers “an abulance chaser” He can afford the haircuts & the house because he was a one of the nations most brilliant and acclaimed trial lawyers specializing in corporate negligence & medical mal practice. In a word “successful” !

    I currently find myself prefering John Edwards over all the other candidates and I hope he surprises the nation by recieving the Democratic nominaton…I doubt if he can come up with the support it will take to pull off getting it..but if he does…I think he could very possibly be our next President. Just imagine after 8 yrs of having Bush as President to have a man who is truely educated, intelligent, well read, an eloquent speaker, respected, successful by his own hard work! What a complete and welcome change is all I have to say.