John Edwards, Presidential Hopeful and Ex-Senator, Wraps Up Early Campaign Blitz in Carolinas
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. – Presidential hopeful John Edwards, returning to the scene of his only primary victory in his 2004 bid, said Saturday that fellow Democrats should focus on running Congress rather than trying to impeach President Bush.
He also disagreed with an audience member who suggested, on the day Saddam Hussein was hanged in Iraq, that Bush should face the same fate.
But Edwards said he “unequivocally and without any question” rejected an escalation of the war. “There is no military solution to what is happening in Iraq,” he said to cheers from a crowd of 1,800 at Brookland Baptist Church, one of the state’s largest black churches.
Luevera Caeser, one of about a dozen questioners at the town hall-style event, asked whether Edwards thought Bush should face impeachment because he “lied to the nation.”
Edwards said the Republican-led impeachment of former President Clinton was driven by politics and damaged the nation. “I don’t think the way to correct that mistake is by another mistake,” Edwards said. “We don’t have to get in the mud with pigs.”
Another questioner, Davey van Greenen, asked Edwards whether Bush should be tried and face the same fate as Saddam. “He should be hanged in public himself,” van Greenen said to considerable applause.
“I’ll say to you very directly I don’t agree with what you just said,” Edwards responded, to similar applause.
Edwards’ biggest ovations came on domestic issues, particularly health care. “We should say finally and without equivocation it is time for universal health care in America,” he said.
He also said he wants an increase in the minimum wage, a better education system, national energy independence and a United States that is a world leader.
“It’s time for us to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war,” he said.
Edwards, who was born in South Carolina but launched his political career from North Carolina, won the 2004 primary here with 45 percent of the vote to John Kerry’s 30 percent.
The stop at one of South Carolina’s largest black churches came as the one-term senator neared the end of his multistate announcement tour. After a New Orleans launch, Edwards headed to Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Edwards returned to North Carolina Saturday evening and was greeted by about 5,000 people near his campaign office in Chapel Hill, according to campaign officials.
“I came here tonight to ask all of you to join us in this cause, because I can’t do it by myself,” Edwards said. “We have to start today.”
Edwards took no questions at the rally and hardly mentioned Bush, instead encouraging supporters to promote his vision for the country.
Bush carried North Carolina in 2004, and Rachel Frew of Chapel Hill said she knows people who are still unhappy Edwards only served one term as a senator.
“I think he’s going to have some work to do in this state to carry North Carolina,” Frew said.
Associated Press writer Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report from Chapel Hill.