Local Politics

Iowans Weigh Edwards Popularity, Electability

Posted December 7, 2007 7:13 p.m. EST

— Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses set the tone and the top issues for the presidential race, and they give state residents unrivaled access to candidates.

John Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, has spent almost 70 days crisscrossing the state so far this year, courting some of the most powerful average people on the planet in his second run for the White House.

Polls show Edwards running a close third among Democrats in Iowa, trailing New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. But polls also show more than half of Iowans could change their minds in the final weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

"There will be movement. That's one thing that's absolutely certain," Edwards said.

He plans to spend much of the next few weeks in Iowa to reach undecided voters like Barb Gregersen and build political momentum.

"I was impressed with him in '04, and I just want another chance to hear him personally," caucus-goer Gregersen said.

David Yepsen, a political columnist with The Des Moines Register, notes that Edwards has the highest approval rating of any candidate in Iowa. But about a third of Iowans admit they weigh electability, he said, and Edwards lags in most polls outside the state.

In South Carolina, for example, Edwards is a distant third in the polls. He won the state primary in 2004 – his only victory that year.

"I think John Edwards has an uphill battle here," Yepsen said. "Because he's running against two celebrity candidates in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, if he doesn't win Iowa, I think it will be a huge psychological blow to his campaign.

"I think it effectively knocks him out of the race."

Never shy on confidence, Edwards keeps pushing forward in Iowa as he fights for the future of his candidacy.

"I think Iowa is very important for all three of us," he said, referring to Clinton and Obama as well. "I think (my campaign is) in a very strong position going forward."