For all his tough talk, there's an eagerness to please that colors Edwards' interactions with voters. He often says that he's about to offer an answer that "you may not agree with," but seldom says anything very disagreeable.
Still, the aggressive Edwards pleases many Democratic caucusgoers, who are eager for a change in parties -- and a drastically new direction -- after two Bush-Cheney terms.
"He's honest, and he's listening to what the people have to say," said Herman Wyatt, a retired John Deere factory employee who lives in Oskaloosa. "That guy's genuine -- he's real."
Edwards said he's confident he's giving voice to voters' concerns in part because other Democrats are adopting positions he's espoused on issues including Iraq, poverty, health care and the environment.
"I don't say this in any derogatory way about the others -- I just think that I've led on every major issue," Edwards told ABC. "I've been thinking about being president. I don't come to this at the last minute."
ABC News' Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report.