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Inside Politics

Edwards thrilled by second-place finish in Iowa

North Carolina senator says he noticed recent surge

Sen. John Edwards celebrates with supporters his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
Sen. John Edwards celebrates with supporters his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

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DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Sounding giddy after his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said on CNN's "Larry King Live": "I'm having so much fun I can't begin to tell you."

Edwards, who lagged in the polls until recent days, said his last-minute surge reflected what he had seen at recent campaign events.

"Three weeks ago, I would have been surprised," Edwards said. "Yesterday, today, the day before, last three or four, when we would go to do events there would sometimes be crowds of a thousand-plus people, standing in the street who couldn't get in. So It became pretty obvious there was something going on.

"I think what went right is this incredible response to a message that's finally getting through: my message of hope and optimism, and trying to build one America where everyone gets a chance to do what they're capable of doing. The problem early on was that there were so many negative attacks it was hard to get that message through and for people to hear it. But finally, here at the end, caucus-goers in Iowa heard it," Edwards said.

The senator couldn't resist a bit of crowing at the expense of campaigns -- notably those of Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt -- whose armies of volunteers and union support were heralded as superior organizations.

"All the other candidates spent much more money," Edwards said. "Some of the others had union organizations working for them. Basically, we were sort of the little engine that could. The reason it worked was the message."

Edwards planned to fly to New Hampshire for a rally late Monday night.

In a dig at candidates Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman, who skipped the caucuses in order to focus on the Granite State, Edwards said he planned to run everywhere "with the same strength and the same momentum."

"My view is I'm running a national campaign. I don't think you get to pick and choose where you want to run," he said.

Edwards said he would spend most of the week leading up to next Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, but promised to spend part of that time in South Carolina, which holds one of the next round of primaries, on February 3.

Edwards was born in South Carolina and warned his rivals, "It's a place where I expect to do very well."

In a speech after his strong finish in Iowa, Edwards spoke to supporters of building a new America.

"This campaign, this cause, this movement is about bringing real change to America," Edwards said. "It's about lifting up the American people and making them believe again." (Transcript)

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