John Edwards

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John Edwards

John Edwards (born June 10, 1953) is an American lawyer and politician. He was a Democratic candidate for the 2008 election, but withdrew from the race after failing to win the primary in his home state of South Carolina. Edwards, a wealthy trial lawyer famous for winning lawsuits against drug companies and other large corporations, served a term as senator for North Carolina (1998-2004). He achieved national prominence running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and was the vice presidential candidate, running with Senator John Kerry for the 2004 election. He is married to Elizabeth Edwards, née Anania, whose inoperable cancer is a frequent topic of discussion.

As a candidate in 2004 Edwards had a mild, "bring-us-together" style; in 2007-8, however, many observers noted a radically changed style. As Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist, said, Edwards was running "a very different kind of campaign this time, with a very different moral compass." Having voted to support Bush on the Iraq war, he reversed course, apologized for his vote, and moved to left, according to a Washington Post analysis.[1] In 2004, he defended his 2002 vote for Bush's position on the Iraq war, prescribed a gradual approach to health care reform and told Iowans he would not criticize his fellow Democrats running for president. In 2008, Edwards called his Iraq vote a mistake, embraced universal health care, and regularly attacked his opponent Senator Hillary Clinton.[2] Edwards himself explained his change in style: "Some of what is being characterized in that way is the result of me being strong and clear about where I stand and not being soft and muddy."[3]

In the 2008 campaign he crusaded against the power elite: he unleashed a populist attack on big oil, big drug companies, big insurance companies and corporate lobbyists in Washington. He denounced them as "powerful insiders" that have "rigged the system" against the ordinary working people, leaving them poorer and degrading the environment while blocking access to affordable health care. "I’ve been fighting these people all my entire life," said Edwards. "I fought them in the courtroom, and I’ve beat them and beat them. We’ve got to stop being mealy-mouthed and careful. We’ve got to get rid of the robber barons. We need to have some guts....It makes me angry. I feel outrage. I won’t let them get away with it." [4] He led in the Iowa polls in spring 2007, then slipped behind Clinton, then behind Obama. His response was to escalate the confrontational rhetoric, saying, "Corporate greed is killing the middle class, robbing you of your jobs and robbing your children of their future."[5]

His campaigning style was controversial, and some Democrats worried that his anger would alienate voters, as did Howard Dean in 2004.

“There’s a fine line between passion and anger,” said David P. Redlawsk, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa and director of the university’s political poll. “It’s too early to tell which side of the line he is straddling. If he seems to be purely angry all the time, it will fail. People are not interested in a guy who is always angry.”[6]

In January 2008 Edwards was defeated by 9 points by Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses, but came in just ahead of Hillary Clinton and vowed to fight on in the New Hampshire Primary on Jan. 8. He placed third in New Hampshire, behind both Obama and Clinton, but remained in the primary race until a crushing defeat in the Nevada caucus and lost decisively to Barack Obama in South Carolina a few days later. In late May he endorsed Barack Obama.

see 2008 United States presidential election


  1. Dan Balz, "New John Edwards Sells Less Biography, More Liberal Issues," Washington Post March 11, 2007; "He is running as a more unabashed liberal this time." says USA TODAY Nov 4, 2007
  2. Thomas Beaumont, "The evolution of John Edwards," at Des Moines Register Nov. 20, 2007
  3. Quoted by Washington Post
  4. Leslie Wayne, "In a Must-Win State, Edwards Takes a Harsher Tone," New York Times Aug 19, 2007
  5. Rachel Gallegos, "Edwards: Industry won't solve health care crisis," in Iowa City Press-Citizen December 23, 2007; poll data from [1]
  6. Leslie Wayne, "In a Must-Win State, Edwards Takes a Harsher Tone," New York Times Aug 19, 2007

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