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Edwards slams Clinton, 'establishment elites'

  • Story Highlights
  • Ex-Sen. John Edwards tells voters to reject "answers ... rooted in nostalgia"
  • Edwards' speech viewed as drawing a line between him, Sen. Hillary Clinton
  • North Carolina Democrat trailing Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama
  • NEW: Clinton camps say attacks "won't improve Senator Edwards' campaign"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John Edwards didn't mention a chief Democratic presidential rival by name, but it seemed clear whom the White House hopeful was targeting in a fiery speech Thursday in New Hampshire.


Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards campaigns last weekend in Clinton, Iowa.

The former U.S. senator from North Carolina, who finds himself lagging significantly behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in most national polls, told New Hampshire voters to reject "establishment elites" and "outdated answers ... rooted in nostalgia."

"The trouble with nostalgia is that you tend to remember what you liked and forget what you didn't," Edwards said. "It's not just that the answers of the past aren't up to the job today, it's that the system that produced them was corrupt -- and still is."

Clinton often touts the successes of her husband's administration on the campaign trail as does the former president. Video Watch Edwards slam the politics of the past »

But Edwards said voters shouldn't replace "a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats." Seeming to take a page out of Republican talking points from the '90s, he added, "The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House or the Senate."

Following President Clinton's 1996 re-election, Republicans accused him of improperly allowing top campaign donors to spend a night in the White House, arguing the practice amounted to "renting" out the Lincoln Bedroom.

Democrats have also charged President Bush of the same practice.

Edwards also said, "We cannot triangulate our way to real change," a veiled reference to the ex-Democratic president's political strategy of attempting to fashion a "third way" on issues to appeal to members of both political parties.

Edwards, who previously has attacked the former first lady for accepting campaign donations from lobbyists, continued his criticisms of the practice Thursday, decrying "the politicians who curry [lobbyists'] favor and carry their water."

The senator from New York has defended accepting $400,000 in campaign donations from lobbyists, saying at a recent presidential forum, "A lot of these lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans. They actually do. They represent nurses, they represent social workers -- yes, they represent corporations that employ a lot of people," she said.

The Clinton responded to Edwards' speech by saying "angry attacks on other Democrats won't improve Senator Edwards' campaign."


"Senator Clinton has been fighting for America's families for 35 years and has the experience to lead on day one," Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand told CNN.

Edwards speech kicks off a four-day bus tour of New Hampshire, a crucial campaign state, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Alexander Mooney and John King contributed to this report.

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