Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has embarked on a 34-stop tour of Iowa this week, with a Wednesday stop in Waterloo to court union activists. Back in 2003 when Edwards was repeatedly stressing that he was the "son of a mill worker," Edwards spoke to the Iowa Federation of Labor and opened with details about his family biography that don’t often make it into his speeches today.
"When my father retired, my mother was a member of the letter carriers (union). The reason my parents had health insurance then was because of the union," Edwards said. "…My younger brother is a member of the IBEW Local 553. Because of what you do and because of the work you do every single day for the people you represent, my brother — when his wife developed cancer and had to get treatment and had to get surgery — had the health care that she needed."
In that first campaign, Edwards presented himself as the candidate with a "positive" message who refrained from direct attacks on his rivals. "We can set this country on fire with this message," Edwards said.
Back in 2003, Edwards focused his rhetorical fire on Republican President George W. Bush. "This president doesn’t see it. He doesn’t understand it. He has never lived it. He doesn’t know what it’s like. People all over America are hurting because of this economy, but this president is so out of touch."
This time around, however, Edwards offers even harsher criticism of Bush and Edwards directly confronts his rivals for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination.
During an interview with Radio Iowa, Edwards commented on his evolution from "Mr. Positive" to the man on the attack. "I think that things have gotten worse since the last campaign and I think we need to speak out and express the outrage that I think a lot of Americans feel," he said.
His outrage, Edwards said, is primarily fueled by the status of the nation’s health care system and the war in Iraq. "It doesn’t change the fact, though, that I remain hugely optimistic about what we can do about this and very positive about that," Edwards said.
Edwards, Clinton, Obama, Richardson, Biden and Dodd will speak Wednesday afternoon at the Iowa Federation of Labor’s convention.