In New Hampshire, Edwards Has an Attack for Almost Everything

Clinton, Wal-Mart, Murdoch, Lobbyists All Come Under Fire

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DURHAM, N.H. (AdAge.com) -- Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards doesn't even have to open his mouth to seem different from Republicans. You think maybe the jeans, blue shirt and a leather aviator jacket rather than a suit might send a not entirely subtle message of change?

Or maybe it's when he takes off the jacket and rolls up his shirt sleeves as he did three times during Tuesday's appearances.

The visual message is quickly reinforced in the style and wording of the senator's speeches. There are few holds barred.

Comparing the attitude of the American people towards government in World War II with their attitude during the Iraq war, he cites "an incredible disconnect between people and their government." But he doesn't stop at calling for policy changes and ripping on Washington.

He terms the Bush administration domestic surveillance "illegal spying." Complaining about lobbyists' influence, he says "corruption has crept into our government." He suggests the "politically connected have made millions on the [Iraq] war." He suggests he will yank Congress' own health care if it doesn't act to provide similar care to the rest of the nation within six months of his election.

Repeatedly, he attacks rival Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton by name, complaining about funding her campaign has received from lobbyists, her support of nuclear power, and her votes on Iraq and Iran and what he says is her unwillingness to answer specific questions about getting out of Iraq.

He also calls on the voters to take steps to ensure change happens.

"We are going to have an election in New Hampshire, not an auction," he says.

He also isn't shy to take on others, criticizing Wal-Mart for opposing measures to inspect containers entering the U.S., and expressing worries the Federal Communications Commission may be about to give Rupert Murdoch too much control over the media. (Edwards has a long history of disputes with Fox News Channel during this campaign.)

Several times he also talks about wife Elizabeth, saying at the end of each event that one reason he's running is because some women suffering from breast cancer don't have the same kind of access to health-care coverage she does.

Barely mentioned is another rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who still is second in most national polls for the Democratic race.

There is "a very simple reason ... For most of these major issues, what we do in Iraq, what we should be doing in Iran, a system that in Washington is broken, the biggest differences are between Sen. Clinton and myself," he tells a reporter later.

If it sounds strong, it's pretty clear that here as in Iowa, Mr. Edwards is stepping up his attacks.

The Edwards campaign launched its first ads in New Hampshire on Tuesday, just as it launched them in Iowa last week, and it also opened two more local offices in New Hampshire over the weekend, bringing the number to 12 in this small state.

Sheila Blanchette, a voter from Stratham attending one of the forums, said she is deciding between Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards and makes clear she likes Mr. Edwards' style as well as his message.

"He reminds me of Bobby Kennedy," she said.
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