In a wide-ranging, free-wheeling interview with Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards with ABC News Friday afternoon, the former North Carolina senator labeled "ridiculous" comments made by the Obama campaign that seemed to link former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination to Sen. Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq, embraced Sen. Barack Obama's politics over Clinton's, and said an anti-Obama flier from a pro-Clinton union was "misleading" and "deceptive."
Edwards also detailed his conversation with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf from Thursday in which he told that country's leader he needs to allow "independent international inspectors into Pakistan to determine the facts of what happened around the former prime minister's assassination. That kind of transparent process is the only way there's going to be any credibility."
ABC News spoke to Edwards on his way to his "closing argument" speech in Dubuque in which the candidate argued that his aggressive populism is necessary for the country, a message that he summed up as: "We have to stop the corporate greed that's killing the middle class in America."
Edwards told a friendly crowd at the Colt Drum & Bugle Corps Center in downtown Dubuque that "if we elect another president appointed by the status quo -- from either party -- the middle-class will fall further behind and our children will pay the price. ... Real change is going to take a real fight. It always does."
Implicit in his speech were criticisms of Clinton and Obama, with whom Edwards is locked in a three-way fight, according to local polls. Edwards' crowds seem to be growing, and anecdotally other campaigns say they see an uptick in his support in their internal campaign-tracking polls.
"To get real change, we need a president who will stand up against the big corporations and powerful interests that control Washington. Nobody who takes their money and defends the broken system is going to bring change," Edwards said, in a shot at the former first lady.
"And unfortunately," Edwards continued in his speech, turning his sights to Obama, "nobody who thinks we can just sit down and talk them into compromise is going to bring change either."
Edwards acknowledged in the interview that he was projecting a sunnier demeanor in these closing weeks of the campaign than previously when it came to criticism of his rivals. But he insisted his language against "the entrenched interests" is just "as aggressive and passionate."
Friday morning at a forum for undecided voters in Independence, Iowa, Edwards repeated his implicit criticism of Obama, saying any candidate who thinks he or she can invite corporate America to the table and achieve real results for Americans "is living in never-never land."
So he believes Barack Obama lives in never-never land?
"If he believes that, yes," Edwards said. "It's a little hard for me to tell sometimes based on the way he talks about this. I've heard him say he would give stakeholders a seat at the table. I assume he's talking about oil companies, drug companies and insurance companies."