First Lady Mari Culver endorses Edwards

The scene is as follows:  it’s the room in the Temple for the Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines. It features marbble pillars as a backdrop and a high ceiling with stained glass sky lights.  A crew of mostly Steelworkers is standing in the center, chatning things like, "We love Elizabeth and we love John.  We want to see them on the White House lawn" and, "No more lobbyists.  No more PACs.  John’s going to take the White House back."  Other supporters are seated more sedately on chairs on the sides of the room.

As you may recall, Mari Culver endorsed John Edwards just a few days before the 2004 Caucuses.  As I recall the event was staged in a brand new grocery store for the inner city of Des Moines — a grocery store that has gone out of business.

A recording of Sting singing "Brand New Day" is playing in the hall as the Steelworkers continue to chat and drown it out.  Now, the announcer comes on at 12:27 p.m. to announce Roxanne Conlin, a long-time Edwards supporter.

"Can you feel the excitement?" she asks the crowd.  "This has been such a great week, beginning with the debate…This the candidate that can win."

"Here’s what I want you to tell your family & friends and all the people in your email address book…If you want the candidate that will really bring change….then you want John Edwards," Conlin continued, mentiong Congressman Bruce Braley’s endorsement as well as the "special guest" who is here today (that would be Mari Culver).

Then, she endorsed another "very special friend" — the candidate’s wife, who Conlin said on occasion "heckles" the candidate.

"We’re assuming the robocalls worked and that’s why you’re all here," E. Edwards said to the crowd, joking about how "cheerful and happy" the people behind her are — for the cameras.

She noted that her children are named Emma Claire and Jack, short for John and Culver’s children are Claire and John.  "We have that in common," E. Edwards said. 

The backdrop for the cameras — in addition to the cheerful people — is the flag of the State of Iowa, a backdrop for Iowa’s First Lady.

Mari Culver is now on stage.

"Hello. Isn’t this an exciting day?" she begins.  "Thank you all for joining us here today…Iowans have an important decision to make…and I, like all of you, have carefully examined the candidates…We as Democrats have the best field of Democrats running that we’ve ever had….I’ve enjoyed getting to know the candidates and their families and value the friendships I’ve made along the way and I so applaud the great public discourse each of them have contributed….Like you, however, I can only select one candidate to stand with on Thursday, January 3rd.".

"You’ve got the right one,’" a man in the crowd yelled when she paused.

"And that is why today I publicly announce my support for John Edwards for president," she replied.

Culver continued:  "There are many reasons why I’m supporting John Edwards…First, I know John….I like John.  John is a great person…with a really compelling personal story…John Edwards was born of modest means….  then John became a lawyer, a very good lawyer…he represented those who otherwise would not have had a voice….John Edwards has never forgot where he came from…his humble beginnings….but with John Edwards you get an added bonus — his wife….Elizabeth is as remarkable and kindhearted a woman as you could ever hope to meet.  She has earned the respect and admiration of our country.

"John Edwards is right on the issues that matter most….He was the first candidate to come up with a detailed proposal for universal health care for all Americans….and he is the first candidate in my adult life to make it his cause to eliminate poverty in America…As some of you I have tried to advocate for those who struggle mightily in this state….but did you know that John Edwards has done the same thing across this country….He has made a serious study of the issue of poverty and has worked hard…."

Culver shifts to the closing argument.  "Now third and most importantly, I believe John Edwards can win," she said.  "Not just the Caucuses, but the general election, too.  He’s ready.  He’s been battle tested."

She mentions a recent CNN poll:  "John Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who will beat every Republican in the fall….without a doubt, John Edwards is electable but another reason that John Edwards can win is because John Edwards inspires people.  He inspires the best in people.  His message has always been rooted in optimistm….I believe Americans are ready to rally behind a presidednt who inspires us to do our very best."

She read a passage from Edwards’ book, then ended with this: "Ladies and gentlemen I, too, choose to be inspired.  I am honorest to support John Edwards  and I respectfully ask Iowa Democrats to join me."

Music is played.  Edwards comes on stage.  "Welcome to the children.  Elizabeth is pointing out the children for me.  Thank you to my old and dear friend and loyal friend….Roxanne Conlin.  Thank you to the woman I love more than any person in the world, my wife Elizabeth, and thank you to Mari Culver."

Edwards went on to talk about a visit he and Mari Culver made to a women’s hsleter earlier this morning, and closed by calling her a "great, great human being."

"A woman who doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk." Edwards said of Culver’s work on behalf of women and children — but perhaps, also, speaking of her public endorsement of his candidacy.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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