A potential presidential candidate of 2008 who’s a frequent visitor to the state will be back today (Thursday) to speak in Waterloo. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards will be at the Iowa Federation of Labor’s convention. Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson went back and analyzed Edwards’ last speech in Iowa and found Edwards is making a definite appeal to church-goers.John Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee — is reaching out to people of faith in his new campaign against poverty and homelessness. Edwards spoke in Des Moines in June and stressed his previous work in a church-related group in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Before I ever got in politics, I was involved with Urban Ministries in North Carolina which is a faith-based group and our primary goal was to deal with the homeless and those in extreme poverty,” Edwards said. Edwards, who was speaking to the Iowa Coalition on Housing and the Homeless, called helping people who are struggling a “moral” issue. “I think it says something about the character of our country, how we treat those who are living here and living on the margins,” Edwards said. “…I know I’m preaching to the choir, as we say down south.” Edwards, who is a Methodist, returned again and again in that speech to the question of morals, and got into the verbal rhythm of many preachers as he assailed the choices being made in the federal budget. “Speaking for me, I don’t know how we as a nation can honor a moral document that does so little for all those who are struggling everyday and does so much for those who need nothing. I mean, it’s completely out of whack,” Edwards said. “How ’bout if we actually invest in making sure that we have shelter and housing for the homeless? How ’bout if we feed the hungry?”And Edwards closed his speech with phrases you might hear in a church sermon. “If all of us are out there and we’re preaching the gospel of doing something about poverty in America, all of us together, we can create a symphony, you know, and that symphony can stir the soul of this country and we can end the injustice that is poverty in America today,” Edwards said. Is this the kind of message that can appeal to church-goers and those evangelical Christians who proved so crucial in Bush’s victory? The executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party said after Edwards’ speech that he doesn’t know any evangelical Christians who are Democrats. Iowa Christian Coalition president Steve Sheffler says most of the people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians aren’t “beholden” to a political party, but do gravitate toward Republican or conservative candidates. “Basically, the most important thing in their life, of course, is their Lord and their family, but they’re concerned about a whole wide range of issues and poverty would certainly be one of them, but when you have a lot of candidates on the left (who) don’t believe in the sanctity of human life from conception to a natural death and don’t believe strongly that traditional marriage between one man and one woman is paramount and important, then I think that’s pretty understandable why people don’t gravitate toward certain people on the left who don’t share those values,” Sheffler says. Sheffler says Edwards does hit on a theme that strikes a chord with Christians. Sheffler says the Bible talks about the obligation Christians have to take care of people in need, and he says churches need to do more to take care of the material needs of the poor rather than turning to government to solve the problem. But others believe faith-based groups should be given government money to hand out charity. As a self-described Christian conservative, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft of Missouri says people of faith must a place in the political debate. “They need to be able to be welcomed in the public square not to impose their views but to be able to speak clearly about their views and institutions like the Salvation Army and other faith-based organizations should have the opportunity to participate in helping to solve the problems of the culture,” Ashcroft says. Ashcroft spoke with Radio Iowa by phone during his most-recent trip to Iowa. This weekend, Edwards will also make appearances in Cedar Rapids and Marshalltown.
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