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Edwards: Optimistic message can beat Bush

Sen. John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, greet supporters Tuesday in Concord, New Hampshire.
Sen. John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, greet supporters Tuesday in Concord, New Hampshire.

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
New Hampshire
John Edwards
America Votes 2004\s Presidential Race
Democratic candidates

HAMPTON, New Hampshire (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. John Edwards said Tuesday that his second-place showing in the Iowa Democratic caucuses shows he can take on President Bush in November with an upbeat campaign.

"Not only does this message work with Democratic primary voters, with independents and caucus-goers, this is a message that will go across the country and across party lines," Edwards said on CNN's "American Morning."

The first-term senator from North Carolina went from the back of the pack in polls taken two weeks ago to winning 32 percent of the vote in Monday night's caucuses.

He placed second, behind Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and held a double-digit lead over the two candidates previously considered the front-runners -- former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri. (Full story)

Gephardt withdrew from the presidential race Tuesday. (Full story)

Edwards avoided attacking his rivals in Iowa.

Campaigning Tuesday in New Hampshire for next week's primary, he told students at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton that the stakes in the election are too high to spend time and money on such attacks.

"There's such a hunger across this country for something different," he said.

"I know over the last couple of months there's been a lot of -- both in debates and newspaper stories, to some extent in television advertising -- there's been a lot of sniping and attacks from one Democratic presidential candidate to another," he said. "I have not been involved in that for a very simple reason: Because I believe this election is bigger than that, I think it's more important than that."

However, Edwards has repeatedly criticized Bush, characterizing him as out of touch in a capital beholden to business interests and lobbyists.

Edwards told the crowd gathered at the high school that Bush's ties to special interests has created two kinds of health care, education and tax systems, "One for people who are in position of power and influence, and then one for everybody else."

"You and I together can change all this," Edwards said. "We can build one America where everybody has the same chance."

Bush, who will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night, has become "distant from and removed from the American people," Edwards said on "American Morning."

"What he does is he comes into a ticketed event, stands at the podium, delivers a speech, may shake a few hands on his way out," Edwards said. "What I've been doing is I've been in people's homes, on Main Street, in cafes -- not only talking but listening. Giving speeches does not teach you what the problems are that people are facing in their lives."

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