Edwards sharpens pitch to working families | VailDaily.com

Edwards sharpens pitch to working families

AMES, Iowa (AP) ” Democrat John Edwards sharpened his populist appeal to working families on Sunday, blaming corporate greed and political calculation for the economic and other problems affecting the middle class.

Edwards, on the seventh day of an eight-day bus tour of the state, spelled out the components of what he calls his “middle class rising agenda,” including tax breaks for working families, tougher trade policies and investment in alternative energy. He has outlined much of that agenda before, but on Sunday he lumped the proposals together in a single package and combined it with some of the sharpest rhetoric of the campaign to date.

“Corporate greed and political calculation have taken over our government and sold out the middle class,” Edwards said. “That is wrong. It doesn’t say ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of endless corporate profits’ in the Declaration of Independence.”

Edwards said he would fight for the middle class against special and entrenched interests in Washington.

“We have a fight in front of us, we have a fight for the future of this country,” he said. “We need someone who is going to step into that arena on your behalf, someone who is ready for that fight, somebody who has got it inside, somebody who has the toughness and strength and fight.

“Brothers and sisters, I was born for this fight,” he told the more than 500 people jammed into a high school gym to hear him.

With Iowa’s caucuses on Jan. 3., Edwards is locked in a tight three-way contest with Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. He is betting that his campaign experience in the state and his emphasis on retail politics will pay dividends in these final days.

Edwards finished a surprising second in the caucuses in 2004, and basically continued campaigning in the state after Democrat John Kerry failed to defeat President Bush. He casts the differences with Clinton and Obama as one of who best understands how to bring change in Washington.

The three leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination all stump on a theme of changing Washington, but have different approaches for how to do that. Clinton points to her experience and argues that she’s ready to step into the job on Day One, while Obama touts his ability to bring differing camps together. With increasingly sharp rhetoric, Edwards derides both approaches.

“I hear all these candidates talking about how we’re going to bring about the big, bold change that America needs,” Edwards said Sunday. “And I hear some people saying that they think we can sit down at a table with drug companies, oil companies and insurance companies, negotiate with them and they will voluntarily give their power away. This is a fantasy.”

Edwards also is making the case that he’s best positioned to win the White House in November, pointing to polls that show him ahead of all the leading Republican presidential contenders.

“I was the only Democrat who beat every Republican in head-to-head matchups,” Edwards said, telling backers to use that argument with wavering voters. “Make sure they know that the data is powerful, that I’m a winner. Say it that way.”

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