Edwards Campaigns In Iowa, Guns No Longer Blazing

From CBS News' Aaron Lewis, on the campaign trail with John Edwards:
Just a couple weeks ago, John Edwards was waist deep in a war of words with Sen. Hillary Clinton. But now that Sen. Barack Obama is upping his public challenges to Clinton, Edwards has stepped to the side to act as a casual – and even an amused – observer.

Take, for example, the spat between Clinton and Obama in which Clinton's campaign said that, contrary to his claims, Obama's presidential ambitions were evident as far back as his days in elementary school -- when he wrote an essay about wanting to be president.

"The Clinton and Obama sniping over the last 24 hours is really fascinating to listen to," said a tongue-in-cheek Edwards at a community meeting in Waterloo, IA today. "I want to confess to all of you right now. In third grade I wanted to be two things: I wanted to be a cowboy, and I wanted to be Superman."

And last night at an event in Mason City, IA, Edwards addressed the issue with the same mocking tone.

"I think it's fine to talk about, you know, our records and about issues," he told the audience. "But I think we probably ought to stop maybe at age fourteen."

It's a curious change of tune from a candidate whose campaign was responsible for coining the phrases "Politics of Parsing" and "Plants for Hillary" in the first half of November. The rhetoric was so heated, in fact, that Edwards was charged with mudslinging by the Clinton campaign.

But though he says nothing has changed in his campaign, Edwards' rhetoric toward his opponents has noticeably dulled since Thanksgiving. And he's even been quick to criticize the "bickering" between his opponents as "a bunch of nothing."

"American people could care less about watching politicians fight with each other," Edwards told New Hampshire voters in Manchester last week. "I mean really, how long have we been watching politicians fight? It's meaningless."

Today, Edwards was asked if he benefits from the fighting between Obama and Clinton. And while he did not directly answer that question, he hinted at the motivation behind his turn from sniper to spectator.

"I don't think America benefits from any personal fighting between candidates," responded Edwards. "I think [voters] want to see us behave in a presidential way, especially as we get this close to the caucus."