Local News

As Edwards Gains Momentum, Pundit Wonders If It's Too Late

Posted January 18, 2004 11:43 a.m. EST

— Monday, voters in Iowa will weigh in on North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' political future.

Edwards is trying to cover a lot of ground in the final hours before Monday's caucuses.

He attended a series of rallies across the northern part of the state this weekend. He shook hands, signed autographs and met the voters who could decide his political future.

Edwards is hot right now. His political value is rising by the day. The latest

Des Moines Register

poll shows him climbing into second place.

John Kerry leads with 26 percent. Then comes Edwards with 23 percent, Howard Dean 20 percent and Dick Gephardt 18 percent.

Though Edwards appears to be peaking at the right time, a question has emerged: Can he turn all of Iowa's excitement into votes on Monday?

His campaign is confident. But a local expert said Edwards might not have enough time.

"It's a very close race, with four candidates having credible chances of winning," Duke Political Science professor John Aldrich said. "Edwards is probably the least credible of the four, but there's still a chance."

Aldrich said Edwards will have a hard time harnessing the late burst of energy into votes.

"It usually takes enthusiasm, plus organization equals victory," he said.

Aldrich said Gephardt has the best network to get voters to the caucuses. Still, Aldrich said even a second-, third-, or fourth-place finish will be a success for Edwards.

"We're pleased with the momentum we've seen," said Roger Salazar, an Edwards campaign spokesman. "We'll let the pundits sort out what each place means on Monday.

"All we can do is get out and have John Edwards deliver his message to Iowans."

That is just what Edwards has been doing this weekend.

His campaign is not surprised by all of the last-minute support. But Salazar said they actually expected it earlier.

"We were hoping it would've started a little sooner," Salazar said. "But we're just happy it's happening now.

"We're happy to peak at this point instead of back in July."

The late success has not changed Edwards' strategy. After Iowa, he will remain focused on

doing well in New Hampshire

a week from Tuesday and winning South Carolina a week after that.