ABCNEWS' Gloria Riviera is on the trail with North Carolina Sen. John Edwards as he makes his bid for the White House. For the latest report, scroll down.
ATLANTA, Georgia, March 2--Way back before it all started, this whoa-nelly-we-are-a-national campaign (!), and Sen. Edwards made his inaugural visit back to reporters' quarters on the campaign plane, the visits were few and far between. He walked slowly down the aisle and often did not make it halfway before heading back to his sequestered section up front. Despite the fact that many of the reporters had been on the trail for months and were on a first name basis with the Senator, he was slightly stilted in navigating the casual, off the record environment. "How are you," he'd ask. "You guys doin' alright?" Maybe the reporters held back as well, unsure of exactly how to go from inter-acting with an ultra-disciplined, always on message candidate to the newly renovated, laid backwards Edwards.
It is stilted no more. Edwards has been back and forth on just about every leg of every trip in the run up to Super Tuesday. Instead of cautious questions that yield cautious answers, reporters and candidate (sometimes) chat with something approaching candor. While it might pale in comparison when veteran campaign reporters spin lore of candidates past, for example there are no nicknames doled out a la Bush, it is significant in another way. Edwards has learned a thing or two along the way, and in no small part that lesson has included press-candidate etiquette 101.
To provide an illustration of how far things have come from sequestered, silent candidate to now: Sunday Edwards' two young children were on board the plane. As Body Man Hunter Pruette put it, three-year-old Jack Edwards has never seen a camera he does not like. In fact he took a real liking to MSNBC embed Dugald McConnell's DV camera, sitting on McConnell's lap as Edward plopped down across from him and settled in for a chat as Jack commandeered the lens. Edwards introduced five-year-old Emma Claire to Dugald as well. This would be the Dugald whose first piece on the campaign was entitled, "Go Away Duglad" because it featured campaign staffers from the candidate on down (Elizabeth Edwards included) saying (not without reason) straight to camera, "Go Away Dugald!" What did Emma Claire have to say upon meeting the famous Dugald? Her eyes widened, "Duuu-gaaalllddd?? Your name is Duuu-gaaalllddd?" Apparently she had not heard that one before.
In fact, on and off the campaign plane, Edwards appears relaxed. It is as if he is fully enjoying this run up to Super Tuesday, despite the daunting polls and the once and for all end of the honeymoon with the national press. Tuesday he canvassed Ohio from Toldeo to Cleveland to Dayton. Attendance was between 200 and 400 at Monday's events, culminating with a Hootie and the Blowfish concert in Macon, Georgia. The concert was held in a massive hanger space, which was just about half-filled what with equipment and staff and a less than elbow-to-elbow audience.
Senator Edwards has been here before, a primary day that could make or break his campaign. But this time it has come down to two. Though the vertical on the uphill battle against Senator Kerry is clear, his stump speech reminds audiences of the hills he has climbed thus far in his life; getting to college, becoming a lawyer and "taking on the Jesse Helms political machine" when he ran for Senate.