Clinton-Obama Spat 'Sad,' Edwards Tells ABC

"I don't think it's a paper resume issue," said Edwards, who was a trial lawyer prior to serving one term as a senator. "It's not a short experience, it's a long experience. It's having come from a very humble place and being able to basically live the American dream, which is what I've done.

"[It's] having seen the struggles of my own family when I was young and growing up," he added, "and having been able to take advantage of what America has to offer and wanting other people to have that same chance."

Edwards' struggles, however, did not end with his youth. In 1996, his son Wade died in a car accident. And in 2004, five days before the general election, he learned his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"The two of us talked," said Edwards of his wife, who has since recovered from breast cancer and is a continuous presence on the campaign trail, "and Elizabeth did not want to say anything publicly about it because she was afraid it would distract people from what both of us believed was a very important election."

Mrs. Edwards was instrumental in shaping her husband's health care policy. Even while campaigning in New Hampshire, she participated in the small group discussions on health care. Edwards credits his wife's condition to the reason he is so committed to universal healthcare.

"I also saw what happens when women go through this," said Edwards. "Elizabeth always said that she's not unique, [that] millions of women have been through exactly the same thing. But it has an effect when you see your wife on a hospital bed, having red poison, effectively, going into her body to kill the cancer. … She was heroic."

Universal healthcare is one of the primary components on Edwards' agenda. In Nashua, at a New Hampshire house party, Edwards explained his plan to provide health coverage for all by 2012. He told ABC News he would pay for it by eliminating President Bush's tax cuts on the richest Americans.

"The money is either there or it's not there from the tax cuts," said Edwards. "And right now those tax cuts exist. So I think it can be used as a revenue stream for now. If we have to make alterations or find other revenue streams, we'll do it."

Another core issue of Edwards' platform is the Iraq war. Edwards believes the United States should pull out about 40,000 to 50,000 troops and gradually withdraw the rest throughout the course of a year. Detractors of this strategy argue that a full troop withdrawal would escalate Iraq into a full scale civil war.

"Any action could end up with Iraq ending in a total civil war," he said, "because the foundation for what's happening there now is the ongoing political conflict between the Sunni and the Shia. … But what I believe needs to be done is we need to shift responsibility to the Sunni and Shia leadership so that they take ownership of a political reconciliation."

But Edwards' position on Iraq wasn't always so clear-cut. He has since admitted that his vote to authorize the war was a mistake. His view differs from Clinton's. She has been critical of the war, but stops short of calling it a mistake.

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