After a tough Democratic debate Tuesday night, Sen. Hillary Clinton's, D-N.Y., campaign accused her fellow candidates of using "the politics of pile on." For former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., the "pile on" hasn't stopped.
In a Sunday appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Edwards made clear his belief that Clinton "operates in a corrupt system."
"I think, first of all, that she defends a system that doesn't work in Washington, D.C.," Edwards said. "She thinks it's fine to continue taking lobbyist money. She thinks it's fine to be the biggest recipient of, you know, health insurance money, health industry money, defense money, et cetera. And she says she will be the agent for change. Well, I just don't think that's going to happen."
But when asked if he was implying that Clinton was corrupt, Edwards responded that the political landscape is to blame.
"She operates within a corrupt system and defends it," he said. "By the way, I said this in the debate, and I stand by it: I don't mean to sound holier than thou. I myself have turned my head when I shouldn't have."
Despite his well-received performance in the debate, Edwards continues to lag third in the polls behind Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 62 percent of voters think Clinton is the most electable Democrat, while only 14 percent feel that Edwards is that candidate.
Edwards, however, said the latest poll "doesn't mean a thing."
"All that information indicates is that she's ahead," he said. "She looks like the winner. When somebody's ahead, they look like the strongest candidate. If you're doing well and you look like you're winning, people think you're electable."
According to Edwards, the latest national numbers also fail to "answer the hard question ... 'Can you compete in the places in America you have to compete to win the presidency? Can you compete in a red state like North Carolina?' I'm the only candidate who has actually won in a red state."
Despite his struggle to break through the field, he has aimed to present himself as the alternative to Clinton.
"I think there's a fundamental choice for voters," Edwards said. "If you believe the status quo works and this system is fine the way it is, and you're willing to pass this mess on to our children, then she's your candidate."
Stephanopoulos asked Edwards if he worried that his attacks on the only female candidate in the race would spark a backlash among female voters.
"First of all, I have more respect for female voters than that," Edwards said. "I think women voters in this country are strong and smart, and they will look at every one of us and say, 'Who will make the best president of the United States for myself and for my family?' I think that's how they'll judge us."