Edwards, Out Of The Early States, In His Element

COLUMBUS, KENTUCKY -- The last time Columbus, Kentucky was even mentioned in connection with a president was probably more than 200 years ago, when Thomas Jefferson tinkered with the idea of asking Congress to make this river city the capital of the country.

To see presidential candidate John Edwards, schools let out early. Four of them made it a field trip for civic students. It seemed like the entire town of about 300 people showed up, and then some, because police officers thought the crowd exceeded 1,500. The campaign brought the bar-b-que.

Edwards spoke on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. A restored Civil War cannon was anchored to the ground about ten feet away. He promised to speak for only a few minutes and answer questions, but then he took some luxury in knowing that these folks had probably never
heard his stump speech before.

“Rural America is who I am, part of who I am,” he said, twice. “I know who you are. I care about what you care about.” When [if] they see Edwards walk across the White House lawn, “I want you to say, that’s my president. He believes in what I believe in.” 25 minutes later, he was done.

Most of the crowd stayed to hear the question-and-answer session. Edwards was asked about health care, education, the Iraq war, nuclear power (a big local issue here), rural policies, the Arab Israeli conflict. At one point, Edwards tried a metaphor: “You don’t make a hog better by weighing,” he said, referring to No Child Left Behind testing metrics. The crowd laughed. That surprised Edwards – that line doesn’t generally compute in New Hampshire and even parts of Iowa. “Kentucky’s a place I can use that line.”

Edwards was sweating heavily by the end of the speech. He spent the next twenty minutes shaking hands. He ducked into his campaign car, toweled off, grabbed a drink of cold war, and then bounded out to a small press conference with reporters.