John Edwards on the Campaign Trail

The Tennessee results were just about thistooclose for comfort, but a win is a win (as Clanrk demonstrated in Oklahoma). Therefore the Edwards strategy of coming in second before proceeding to Wisconsin has come to fruition, in the minds of those in the Edwards camp, and the next few days will be spent trying to figure out how best to replicate Iowa magic in the Badger State.

Initially the campaign had planned to head to California and went so far as to release a preliminary press schedule outlining plans for Thursday and Friday events. No more — too much time in California at the cost of golden Wisconsin hours. Instead the Senator will criss cross coasts, fitting in fundraisers and retail politics.

Early rise after late night

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 10 — Having woken up in Tennessee at the crack of dawn and pulled from their Holiday Inn Express slumber to attend an early morning campaign event at Prater's Barbecue in Morrison, Tenn., the Edwards press corps was nothing if not anxious to make the most of what felt like a sunrise arrival event. As it turned out, it looked more than promising.

After all, this was a small town where a factory closure would soon erase an estimated 1,300 jobs from the community. Kathy George and her husband Randy had worked at United Technology for a combined total of 56 years. By spring, they have been told, they will both be out of jobs. The Georges have one daughter in college and a son in high school. They don't have any idea, they say, of what they might do next.

And so it was that Senator Edwards made room in his schedule for a visit to Morrison to meet with the factory workers Monday morning. After leaving the intimate campaigning of Iowa behind in exchange for orchestrated events and similar to-the-syllable stump speeches, the press corps was eager for real voters (!) and genuinely interested to see how Edwards interacted with the people he says he understands better than any other candidate — the people he says he will "lift up" and "embrace." Hard-working middle-class Americans who suffer from NAFTA and deserve a "president who believes in them."

It was not to be.

The majority of the press did not get any farther than a cup of coffee served from the deck in front of Prater's Barbecue. They ambled aimlessly outside avoiding the stale donuts offered in consolation. For conflicting reasons, the press was not allowed in the closed-door meeting between Edwards and the Morrison workers. While some of those interviewed said they did not mind, others understandably were not partial to the idea of the media listening in on what they hoped to be a private conversation with a man they might consider voting for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee on Tuesday.

Thus the press made do with an extremely brief press avail, grabbing what interviews they could outside as attendees exited the event. Most said they were impressed with Senator Edwards (they always say that) but that they were still thinking about Kerry. Many said all they really wanted was to beat Bush next fall.

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