Three presidential candidates now airing TV in IA

Republican Mitt Romney was the first to run TV ads in Iowa, then Democrat Bill Richardson did.  Now, you’ll see John Edwards’ campaign ads on Iowa TV.  The Edwards ads don’t focus so much on the candidate but "it’s the voices of the people of Iowa speaking out, asking congress to stand its ground and not back down on the issue of ending the war in Iraq," according to Edwards who just spoke to Iowa reporters via telephone in a conference call.

Edwards answered several other questions from the reporters, questions dealing with Iraq — and Edwards’ wealth.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has complained about Edwards’ call on congress to vote "again and again" to force President Bush to start withdrawing troops from Iraq.  "He doesn’t have to cast votes here in the Senate.  We do," Reid said earlier this month on the tension between Edwards, a former U.S. senator, and the current Democrats in the senate.

"Are you at some sort of advantage in this debate because you do not have to cast a vote in the United States senate and your colleagues do?" I asked Edwards, referencing rivals/Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Obama.

"I’d say two things about that," Edwards began.  "First, I’m a candidate for the presidency of the United States.  I’ll be held accountable for every position I take, as I should be, and I’ve taken a clear, strong, unequivocal position on this issue and I stand behind it and I’ll live with the consequences of that.  Second, you know when — I’ve forgotten the year, either 2003 or 2004 — when the vote came on the $87 billion for funding the war that it was already being clear to me that George Bush was managing poorly when I was voting, I voted against it.  I think I was one of a very small group of senators who voted against the $87 billion, but I think that’s all process.  What matters is are we doing everything in our power to bring this war to an end?  It’s what the American people want.  It’s the right thing to do and the congress has the power to do and they should be strong and stand their ground and use that power."

Charlotte Eby of the Lee Newspapers’ Des Moines Bureau followed up:  "Do you think that the average voter is paying attention to what the best legislative strategy is to end the war, or the differences between the Democratic candidates on that, or is it kind of splitting hairs for your average activist?"

"I think that Iowa Caucus-goers pay attention to everything," Edwards said.  "I believe they know the difference between the congress using its power, its constitutional power, to bring this war to an end and not and so, yea, I think they understand it.  I think they understand the difference."

AP’s Nedra Pickler wrote a story today about Edwards and his employment at a hedge fund. 

During the conference call, AP’s Henry Jackson asked Edwards a follow-up to that and other stories:  "There’s been a lot written about your personal wealth and your haircut and your house lately.  My question is:  Is this frustrating at all to you and do you think these articles are fair?"

"I think what matters at the end of the day is what you stand for, where you come from, what you stand for and what you believe and I feel very strongly having come from nothing to now being successful and spending a huge part of my life both as a candidate and when I have not been a candidate working on the causes of low-income families, the uninsured, the poor is somethiing I have done and I’m going to do as long as I’m breathing and I think that represents who I am and what I care about and I’m perfectly happy to have any Iowa Caucus-goer look at me, see what I’ve spent my life doing and where my commitments and convictions are and make their own judgment."

UPDATE:  I forgot to add this little bit at the end of the call from Edwards about the debates and Biden’s idea about having a debate focus just on Iraq.

Edwards said the major issues of the campaign are as follows:  Iraq, health care, energy, climate change, ending poverty.  "I welcome a debate — a very indepth, substantive debate — on all those topics.  They all need to be talked about and they’re all enormously important and I wouldn’t personally choose one of them and spend an entire debate on it but I think we already have a whole bunch of debates scheduled between now and the end of the year and I’m sure we’re going to have some at the beginning of the year, including in Iowa, at least a couple that I’m aware of so I think we’re going to have plenty of time to talk about these issues.  I would love to see the forums and the debates pay less attention to superficial things and focus on the serious substance that the country’s faced with," Edwards said.

So that aparently means no "boxers or briefs" type quesitons. 

And since this original post went up, the Dodd campaign offered a response regarding the whole Iraq funding/timetable for withdrawal debate:  "We agree that we should stand up to the President, but symbolic gestures won’t change his course.  That’s why Chris Dodd is fighting for the Feingold measure that would actually end the war in a responsible way," Taylor West, Dodd’s Iowa campaign spokesperson said in a written statement.

I’m not going to explain Feingold to you, because Edwards says, "Iowa Caucus-goers pay attention to everything" so you already get the Feingold reference.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.