Local Politics

Stakes High for Edwards in Iowa

Posted December 5, 2007 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated December 5, 2007 6:51 p.m. EST

— With one month left until the Iowa caucuses, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is in the final stretch of what some see as a fight for his political life.

Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, surprised many in 2004 by placing second in Iowa. The strong showing boosted his candidacy and propelled him to the Democratic vice presidential nomination.

But Edwards no longer has the element of surprise in his favor, and the political stakes are much higher this time around. Most political analysts said they believe he needs to pull off a win in Iowa to stay alive for the Democratic nomination.

"John Edwards has everything riding on Iowa," said David Yepsen, a political columnist with The Des Moines Register.

The newspaper's latest poll places Edwards third behind Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Yet, he remains confident and upbeat on the campaign trail.

"Everything's relative, but I'm in a much better place than I was the last time," he said. "I feel a great deal of confidence as we go into the last few weeks of this."

Edwards has campaigned in Iowa for 67 days this year – more than any other Democratic candidate – working for votes in high school libraries in Mason City and community college conference rooms in Waterloo.

He talks about ending the war in Iraq, lifting up the poor and taking on powerful corporate lobbyists.

"They will no more give away their power than the man in the moon. We've got to take it from them," he said of lobbyists.

The message resonates with some caucus-goers.

"He walks the talk," Jana Root said.

"He's one of us," Jim Kuhlman said.

While Edwards' familiarity in Iowa is good, Yepsen said, he also lacks some of the spark he had in 2004.

"It's also a downside. He's not a fresh face. He's not as new as he was," Yepsen said.

Edwards has retooled his campaign for the weeks leading up to the Jan. 3 caucuses, toning down attacks in favor of a more positive message.

"I've been through this. I know what you do in Iowa," he told some residents recently.