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Iowa newspaper endorses Edwards

Edwards campaigns in Iowa.
Edwards campaigns in Iowa.

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John Edwards
Democratic Party

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was endorsed Sunday by Iowa's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register.

Coming just eight days before the first referendum of the 2004 presidential campaign -- the Iowa Caucuses -- the paper's editorial board said Edwards was "a cut above" his opponents in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"John Edwards is one of those rare, naturally gifted politicians who doesn't need a long record of public service to inspire confidence in his abilities," the paper said. "His life has been one of accomplishing the unexpected, amid flashes of brilliance."

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean -- who has the endorsements of Iowa's junior senator, Democrat Tom Harkin, and former Vice President Al Gore -- has adopted 'take back our country' as a campaign slogan, but the Register said Edwards is the candidate "who most eloquently and believably expresses this point of view."

"Like all the Democratic candidates, Edwards is strongly critical of [President] Bush, but with him it tends to be a little less personal," the paper said. "He emphasizes his goal is not merely to replace Bush but to change America."

Noting Edwards' upbringing in and around the mill towns of the Carolinas and the strong values engendered in his working-class family, the Register's editorial board said the one-term senator, if nominated, would give Americans a choice between "polar opposites" in November.

President Bush, the paper said, "is from a prominent family, attended Ivy League universities, made his fortune in business and fervently believes the philosophy of 'a rising tide lifts all boats.' His policies flow from the conviction that all Americans will gain if business is largely unfettered and if investors are better rewarded."

"Edwards is from a working-class family, attended public universities, made his fortune representing ordinary people in the courtroom and fervently believes that America does best when doors of opportunity are open to anyone willing to work and get ahead. He says those opportunities are being choked off in an America today that rewards wealth, not work."

"What a clear and attractive choice an Edwards vs. Bush fall campaign would offer," the paper concluded. "Beginning in the Iowa caucuses next Monday, Democrats would do well to give that choice to Americans."

Former NATO Supreme Commander and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, New York civil rights activist Al Sharpton and Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut have focused on New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary January 27.

Dean continues to hold the presumed lead among Democrats in national polls.

In a Newsweek poll released Saturday, Dean drew support from 24 percent of respondents who were registered Democrats or leaned toward the Democratic Party. Clark and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri follow with 12 percent each.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was favored by 11 percent of respondents, up 5 percentage points from December. Lieberman received support from 7 percent of the group.

The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points in either direction.

The results follow a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released earlier in the week that shows Dean with the most support, at 24 percentage points. Clark was in second place with 20 percent in that poll.

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