Ed­wards’ mes­sage against war fiz­zling; is­sue has lit­tle pull in ’08 polls

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

John Ed­wards, us­ing a cit­i­zen­driven In­ter­net move­ment and loads of cash to slam his Demo­cratic ri­vals for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, has po­si­tioned him­self as the most an­ti­war top-tier can­di­date in the 2008 race, but his ef­forts have not yielded any bump in na­tional polls.

Mr. Ed­wards, the 2004 Demo­cratic vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, was sharply crit­i­cized at that time be­cause he had voted for the Iraq war au­tho­riza­tion as a sen­a­tor. Now that he has the lux­ury of be­ing a Wash­ing­ton out­sider, the for­mer sen­a­tor from North Carolina is say­ing Democrats in Congress should have the guts to stand up to Pres­i­dent Bush and pass leg­is­la­tion to with­draw troops from Iraq.

“As pa­tri­ots, we must use our power and the re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with it to push our gov­ern­ment to sup­port our troops in the most im­por­tant way it can — by end­ing this war and bring­ing them home,” Mr. Ed­wards says. “We sup­port our troops. End the war. Bring them home. Be­cause it is pos­si­ble to stop a pres­i­dent who be­lieves he can do no wrong — it just takes peo­ple with the courage to do what’s right.”

The mes­sage — and the full­page news­pa­per ad fea­tur­ing 115,000 names of vot­ers who want to with­draw troops from Iraq — is just the latest ex­am­ple of Mr. Ed­wards ratch­et­ing up the po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on his for­mer con­gres­sional col­leagues. He also is run­ning TV ads in Iowa and in the ex­pen­sive Wash­ing­ton metropoli­tan mar­ket urg­ing Congress to send Mr. Bush a with­drawal bill “again and again.”

The an­ti­war ef­forts most starkly high­light Sens. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York and Barack Obama of Illi­nois, the two Demo­cratic front-run­ners. Mrs. Clin­ton, who voted for the war, and Mr. Obama, who op­posed the war from the start be­fore he was elected to the Se­nate, both voted on May 16 for a pro­ce­dural troop-with­drawal mo­tion.

Al­though Mr. Ed­wards’ tough talk has won him plau­dits from an­ti­war blog­gers and some lib­eral vot­ers, he polls in third or fourth place, in some cases trail­ing for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore, who is not run­ning for pres­i­dent.

Tom An­drews, na­tional di­rec­tor of the an­ti­war coali­tion Win With­out War, which does not en­dorse can­di­dates for 2008, thinks it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore the Ed­wards strat­egy pays off in the polls.

“He is in very fer­tile ground po­lit­i­cally be­cause the Amer­i­can peo­ple as a whole are op­posed to the cur­rent pol­icy,” said Mr. An­drews, a for­mer Demo­cratic con­gress­man from Maine.

Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama hold dou­ble-digit ad­van­tages over Mr. Ed­wards in na­tional polls, with the for­mer North Carolina sen­a­tor cap­tur­ing be­tween 12 per­cent and 20 per­cent.

Mr. Ed­wards’ lack­lus­ter na­tional ap­peal could have lit­tle bear­ing, how­ever, on his fin­ish in the Iowa cau­cus, where an early win could yield him cru­cial mo­men­tum.

“The sense among Iowa politi­cians is that if the Iowa cau­cus were held to­day, Ed­wards would win,” said Gor­don R. Fis­cher, the for­mer chair­man of the state Demo­cratic Party, not­ing the can­di­date’s su­pe­rior or­ga­ni­za­tion in Iowa, which he has kept in­tact since his sur­prise sec­ond-place fin­ish there in 2004.

“The other can­di­dates are play­ing catch-up. But there’s a lot of time to catch up, and I sus­pect they will,” he said.

S.A. Miller con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

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