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Edwards pops up at a concert in, of course, Iowa

November 10, 2007 | 12:25 pm

Presidential campaigns just love surprises -- as long as they are very carefully planned and appear spontaneous.

So last night after a long day hopscotching Iowa, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards suddenly appeared at a John Mellencamp concert at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The singer and senior staff had been alerted but not the audience or the candidate's traveling contingent, including The Times' Seema Mehta, who shared her notes:

After Mellencamp sang "Small Town," an anthem celebrating rural life, he called Edwards onstage. You can't waste an audience that large in Iowa during an election campaign. "This guy's from a small town," Mellencamp said, "and he just so happens to be running for president of the United States."

Edwards was greeted by cheers interrupted by a notable contingent of jeers. He grew up in the mill town of Robbins, N.C., and has known Mellencamp for about seven years. The former senator and vice presidential candidate wisely kept his remarks brief.

"I have been in your small towns," Edwards said. "I was born and raised in a small town. I've been all over your state in small towns." In fact, he's visited Iowa nearly 150 times this election cycle.

As Edwards retreated to a darkened portion of the stage, Mellencamp added, "That guy's a pretty fun guy."

Shortly before Edwards' visit, Mellencamp exhorted young fans to be involved and effect change. Mellencamp noted that his generation had grand plans, such as the legalization of marijuana, which he said he hadn't smoked since 1972. "We never even got that job done," he said. "You need to show compassion for other people and not be as selfish as my generation was."

It was Mellencamp's intro to a song called "Minutes to Memories," in which an old man on a bus exhorts a young man to "be the best that you can." The younger Edwards staffers seemed genuinely moved, even setting down their BlackBerries for a few seconds to applaud.

Understandably, however, candidate Edwards said nothing about legalizing marijuana during his remarks.

-- Andrew Malcolm