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Edwards road report: New day, new bus, same themes

January 2, 2008 |  1:43 pm

About 24 hours into his originally planned but now probably longer 36-hour campaign bus tour for the middle class across frigid Iowa, John Edwards could use one of those Diet Cokes he was once addicted to.

During the night his bus broke down in western Iowa, an unfortunate metaphor for a 4-year-old campaign trying to catch poll front-runner Barack Obama in the last full day of caucus campaigning. This morning some Top of the Ticket readers reported seeing the bus being towed from the roadside (see Comments here). Edwards was late for some late-night events. The crowd was growing grouchy in the single-digit cold. And the candidate got barely an hour's worth of sleep in collective catnaps.

But this morning Edwards showed up all optimistic and perky in the trailing press bus to deliver coffee and a thematic quote or two to quote-hungry reporters, including The Times' bright-eyed Seema Mehta:

"We're on this 36-hour marathon for the middle class," Edwards said. "We're not sleeping. We're working. I want people to know what kind of work ethic I have, and what kind of work ethic I'm going to have when I'm president of the United States And this is an example of it."

After his fifth stop of the day, at a coffee shop in Fairfield at 8:30 a.m., Edwards said voters "are telling us they want someone to stand up for the middle class and stand up for jobs. They're terrified about losing more jobs -- we could lose 30 million more jobs over the next decade -- and they want somebody who will take on some of the corporate greed that is causing problems in this country."

Edwards said his wife, Elizabeth, slept more than he did between overnight stops. But he actually seemed unrumpled and energized. "We're going to make it; I'm going to make it," he said. Then he turned to a reporter and added, "I doubt if she's going to make it. What are those bags under your eyes?"

Edwards swears he's not fallen off the wagon after kicking his Diet Coke habit. "No Diet Cokes," he said. "I'm still sticking with Sprite, though right now I could definitely use a Diet Coke. I wish I drank coffee. I don't drink coffee either."

The overnight events were brief, with short rallying speeches, but they drew large crowds of supporters to house parties in Atlantic and Creston and a pancake breakfast in Centerville. "It's pretty amazing," Edwards said. "These caucus-goers take it very, very seriously."

"Now it's daytime again," he said. "We're speaking longer and taking questions."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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