Edwards appeals for votes in caucus

Ten states’ voters will allot 1,151 Democratic convention delegates Tuesday.

Josh Verges

On the heels of a Thursday vote of support from Minnesota for Dean, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards rallied Friday in St. Paul.

Edwards told several hundred supporters at Hamline University he has a better chance than Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry of defeating President George W. Bush.

“If you give me a shot at George Bush, I will give you back the White House,” he said to cheering fans.

Edwards delivered his standard “two Americas” speech, which he has used to establish himself as the Democratic candidate who came from, and will fight for, the have-nots.

He spoke about health care, the tax system, public education and the economy, which have divided the country into two classes, he said.

Much of the audience knew Edwards’ speech as well as he did, at one point beating him to the “outsource Bush” punch line he has used in past speeches when criticizing the president’s trade policy.

“You stole my line,” Edwards said.

Edwards, who often reminds people he is a mill worker’s son, emphasized his commitment to workers’ rights.

“We need a trade policy that actually works; not just free trade, but also fair trade so that our folks here get a chance to compete,” he said.

Edwards also spoke about the country’s moral responsibility to help people living in poverty. At a Democratic debate Sunday in New York, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich commended Edwards for addressing the issue throughout his campaign.

Recent University graduate Jamal Abdulahi attended Friday’s rally. He supports Edwards because of his plan to provide one free year of public college to academically eligible students.

As a volunteer for the Minneapolis Urban League, the naturalized Somali immigrant talks to youth about the importance of going to college.

“They say ‘how can I pay for it?’ ” he said.

Abdulahi said Democrats have allowed Bush to control the campaign agenda, making little space for important issues.

“Jobs, health care, people going hungry and dying in Iraq” are the issues, he said. “But we’re talking about who should be having sex with whom and under what circumstances. Come on; give me a break.”

University linguistics junior Alex Bajwa volunteered at the Hamline rally. A supporter of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Bajwa said Edwards’ optimism won him over.

He said the senator’s potential to carry Southern states and collect votes from young people makes him the most viable candidate to beat Bush.

Edwards told reporters his campaign, like Dean’s, was built from the ground up and should resonate with students.

“My campaign is about grassroots change for this country,” he said. “Students believe in the same things we believe in, change in America, real change. That empowers them to have a real voice in this democracy.”

On Tuesday, 10 states will award 1,151 Democratic delegates. Kerry leads the race with 562 to Edwards’ 204. A candidate needs 2,162 delegates to win the party nomination.