Mount Pleasant, Iowa — John Edwards continued his 36-hour tour across Iowa this morning, meeting with canvas organizers over cider and donuts and fielding a few questions from the growing pack of reporters tracking his "middle class marathon." Writing on the front page of today’s New York Times, defense correspondent Michael Gordon reports that Edwards has "staked out" an Iraq policy auguring "a more rapid and complete troop withdrawal than his principal rivals," so I asked Edwards whether he is claiming the mantle as the most antiwar candidate in his closing argument. He responded:
I don’t make those kind of evaluations. I’m doing what I think is the right responsible course for America, which is to get all our combat troops out of Iraq in the first year of my presidency; end combat missions and have no permanent military bases. America needs to end its occupation of Iraq and I will do that as President.
Tom Hayden sees the Times article as a new development, but I don’t really see a major shift in the policy or tone here. Edwards is still closing on economic populism, but reaffirming his Iraq plan when voters or reporters raise the question. Iraq is not mentioned in his current, truncated stump speech, though Edwards did add a reference to ending the war during a pitch to undecided voters at a café in Fairfield this morning. But it’s clear that the focus of his closing argument remains beltway-bashing populist passion, as he emphasized today:
The people of Iowa and the people of America are unstoppable when they commit themselves to stopping these entrenched special interests. And I believe that’s going to happen, I think it’s going to happen tomorrow night in the caucus, and it’s going to continue after the caucus through the rest of America.