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Edwards: Boosting the middle class

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Candidate talks health care, poverty, gas prices, Iraq pullout in a SL whistlestop

Presidential candidate John Edwards walked into the the Historic Masonic Building Sunday afternoon to a standing ovation.

"It's exciting to walk into a room like that but the more important reason in coming is to hear what people are thinking about," Edwards said.

Edwards focuses on his Universal Health plan during this weekend trip through Iowa.

"We need to help get prescription costs down," Edwards said. "The last prescription drug bill was written by the drug companies and I was against that. My program will help get prescription drugs onto the market faster and more affordably."

An audience question steered the candidate into his enduring theme of easing financial struggled for the middle class.

"I believe that we are having more and more people falling into poverty," Edwards said. One solution is to make college education affordable to all students who qualify, he said.

"We didn't know if this would work, so Elizabeth and I went to a low income area in North Carolina and set up a fund that would have students attend college and work a minimum of 10 hours a week," Edwards said about his plan. "It was free, but they had to work for it, which is alright - they won't have the huge debt waiting for them that is facing our young people today."

The former North Carolina Senator also went after oil companies and the high gas prices.

"The refineries and the sellers are the same, so we need to investigate these companies and find out what is going on," Edwards said to round of cheers.

A question came up about the national debt, and Edwards stated that he was opposed to just working on canceling out the nation's debtload.

"Economically it doesn't make sense with all the other problems that Americans face [to eliminate national debt]. If we work on strengthening our middle class families, getting rid of our addiction to oil and other issues, then we will be able to look at national debt," Edwards said. "But I do believe that we should cap it so that it won't go any higher."

Edwards did admit that U.S. national debt to China has been growing, causing some concern.

Edwards also believes that Congress should have been tougher on setting a timetable to get out of Iraq.

"Getting our troops home is not a political thing. I believe that Congress should have stood firm when the president vetoed the bill on a timetable. If they didn't have the votes for a veto then send another bill and another bill until the President is forced into action," Edwards said. "If I'm sworn in come January of 2009 and the war in Iraq is still going on then I will pull out, but then it will be too late. How many soldiers will we have lost by that time?"

Edwards' tour of Iowa started on Friday in Marshalltown and ended Sunday in Carroll. Edwards has been spending a lot of time in rural Iowa before the Iowa Caucuses, while most other candidates have stuck to the urban centers.

"I think that anybody who wants this nominatation - not just me, but it would apply to me - if you don't do well in Iowa it is going to be very hard to win this nomination," Edwards said. "I think John Kerry effectively won the nomination in 2004 when he won the Iowa Caucuses."

During a Saturday visit in Grinnell, Edwards stated that he felt that Bush's negligence of international institute has hurt America's position as a global leader.

Under Bush, the U.S. has become "disengaged" from the international institutions, Edwards said. "And if America wants to be a leader in the world and we want to be respected by other countries and treated in a way we like to be treated, then we're going to have to show that we're willing to engage with the international community."

To fight against the national dependance on foreign oil, Edwards would like to see the federal government cut down carbon emissions by 2050 and to work with car manufacturers on creating more efficient vehicles.

"I would also like to make energy grids more competitive so that prices are better to people who use it," Edwards said during a short press session.

Edwards and his campaign staff were clearly pleased to see the ballroom of the Historic Masonic Building packed with people on his second appearance in Storm Lake since the 2004 campaign ended.

"This has been a good trip," Edwards said.

One of the final questions that Edwards took was about his wife Elizabeth, who was not present at the meeting.

"Elizabeth has been on the campaign trail this week but went home to be with her parents in North Carolina," Edwards said. "She is doing well and I might be a little biased after being married to her - but she still looks amazing."

Elizabeth Edwards has been working hard on the campaign trail including the opening of a campaign headquarters in Waterloo, despite her battle with a second diagnosis of breast cancer.

"I don't actually spend any part of my day thinking about cancer," she said in Waterloo. The campaign is great for me."

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