Edwards in Anamosa
by Nate Willems, Sat Jul 14, 2007 at 01:05:33 PM EDT
This is Nate Willems. I was a regional director for Howard Dean's Iowa campaign and recently finished law school at the University of Iowa.I saw John Edwards speak to about 150 people in my hometown of Anamosa this afternoon at the park outside the Lawrence Community Center. Senator Edwards spoke briefly about his new policy initiative on creating "Green Collar" jobs in America before moving to about 45 minutes of questions and answers.
It is always risky to have an outdoor event during the summer in Iowa. Though the weather has been reasonable recently, when you ask seniors to sit out in the sun for an hour and a half, you definitely need to make sure you have plenty of bottled water ready to give away (which the campaign did). On the other hand, part of our job is to make the candidates sweat, which the folks in Jones County did today with both their questions and the sun.
Edwards was confronted with a questioner pressing him to pledge to include Hamas in Middle East peace talks. Senator Edwards replied that he is willing to do so, but only after the Hamas leadership renounces violence and recognizes the right of Israel to exist. Another questioner asked Edwards to commit to reducing the amount of money the United States spends on foreign aid. Edwards replied that military spending aside, the United States actually spends very little on fighting AIDS in Africa or promoting Education and the Environment abroad. He tried to use the question as a teaching moment to explain that we ought to differentiate between all of the money the United States has spent in Iraq and the relatively small amount we spend on foreign aid.
I thought the best moment came when Edwards was asked generally about how he would like to change America's foreign policy. He referenced a previous questioner, the woman who asked about Hamas, and said (paraphrasing), "I understand and appreciate her position, and respect our difference of opinion. America should have a foreign policy where we can have a similar respectful exchange of opinions with countries with which we disagree." Comparing the question and answer session with the shortcomings of America's foreign policy received as much applause as any other statement Edwards made.
This was an interesting mix in this crowd of Democrats, Independents, and a few Republicans. Former Republican State Senator, and current County Supervisor, Andy McKean was in attendance with his wife. My parents' next door neighbors, definite Republicans, were there too. I highly doubt that the Republicans in attendance will go to a Democratic caucus, but there has to be some significance to their being willing to take time out of a beautiful Saturday afternoon to see John Edwards. Whether it is due to the unpopularity of George W. Bush or to the individual candidacy of Edwards, I take it as a real positive sign that people who are known within the community as Republicans are willing to show up in public to hear what Senator Edwards has to say.
In talking to the Democrats in attendance, I think there are a lot of 2's (people leaning towards Edwards) with very few 1's (committed supporters). There are also a lot of people who are seriously looking at Edwards and Richardson or Edwards and Obama. There are, of course, six months until the caucuses and Iowans do not typically like to commit early. Jones County is a place that John Edwards needs to win, and judging on the reaction from the crowd today, I think his campaign is where it needs to be right now in making that happen.