This story was written by George Sweeney, The Daily Iowan
Former Sen. John Edwards didn't criticize any of the other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination Wednesday. Instead, just more than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses, he focused on the split between himself and contenders for the GOP nod.
"Best I can tell, they're all George Bush on steroids," he said after mentioning a nationwide CNN poll taken between Dec. 6 and Dec. 9. The poll indicated Americans were more likely to support him than former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John McCain, or former Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee if he faced any of them in the general election. He was the only Democrat to claim that feat.
The softened tone within the party is not unique to the run up to the 2008 caucuses, University of Iowa political science Associate Professor Cary Covington said.
"The idea of not being too negative has longer standing," he said.
Candidates may avoid criticizing others because they think Iowans aren't attracted to negative campaigns, he said, or because they don't want to appear especially derogatory as the holidays approach.
Covington also pointed to Rep. Dick Gephardt's failed bid for the 2004 Democratic nomination as a potential lesson for candidates. Gephardt's attacks on Howard Dean made him appear negative and contributed to his losing Iowans' support, Covington said.
The cordiality of the campaign has persisted despite poll numbers showing the race to be a dead heat in Iowa.
In a Monday Rasmussen Reports poll on the Iowa Democratic caucus, Edwards trailed Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama with the support of 22 percent of respondents. Rodham Clinton held 29 percent, while Obama had 26 percent. The poll had a 3-percent margin of error.
The Edwards campaign also announced a nine-point plan Wednesday for "Keeping Our Communities Safe" that includes pledges to hire more police officers, better enforcement of laws meant to curtail meth use, ban assault weapons, end ethnic profiling, and reform mandatory minimum sentencing.
After iterating past pledges for ending the war in Iraq and achieving energy independence, Edwards spoke with outrage about the difference in health care and education for the rich and poor.
The candidate also called for adapting but not abolishing No Child Left Behind, criticizing it for focusing too much on standardized tests and taking funding away from failing schools.
"You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it," Edwards said, quoting an anonymous person he had met during the campaign.
Overall, he projected himself as an agent of change, contrasted with an image he portrayed of Republicans as supporting the status quo.
"If you want the war in Iraq to continue, vote for them. If you want it to end, vote for me," he said.
Iowa City resident Mark Jones said he's likely to support Edwards in the Jan. 3 caucuses. "I feel like he's going to be honest," he said.
Charlotte Wright, an Iowa City resident, has considered supporting Obama but said Edwards' position against nuclear power won her over.
She said she holds "nothing against [Rodham Clinton]," but she just wants change.
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE