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Edwards: Message not money

From NBC/NJ's Tricia Miller
EMMETSBURG, Iowa -- In Edwards' third event of the day, a caucus-goer at the Pizza Ranch here asked a question that has been on everyone's mind: How can Edwards win the presidency within the limits of public financing?

The man said he had heard from other campaigns, specifically naming Michelle Obama, that Edwards would not have the finances to sustain his candidacy. David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, hosted a conference call and sent out a related spreadsheet this morning. Part of the spreadsheet crunched Edwards' campaign funding numbers, explaining that because the former North Carolina senator accepted public financing and its limitations, he would not have the funding to sustain his candidacy through the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 25.

Edwards jumped at the chance to counter.

"We have plenty of money to run a serious campaign," he said, "but I just want to say how unbelievably weak it is to be arguing that you should be the candidate because you have more money than the other candidate. I mean, really -- does that convince anybody that that's who you should caucus for? You shouldn't even be here if that's what you're looking for!

"I mean, we could all just have our campaign fundraising events, send the totals in, the elections are over before you ever cast a vote! I don't think that's the way this works. I think you get to actually decide who you think is strongest, who has the fight, who has the ideas, and who's ready to be President of the United States. And I think that's exactly what's going to happen on Thursday night when you go to caucus."

Pressed further by reporters after the event, Edwards elaborated.

"If we are able to win the nomination," he said, "and we're obviously moving in very strong right now, then what that means is, I will have beaten two celebrity candidates who between them have spent $200-250 million because of the strength of this message of stopping corporate greed, restoring the middle class, making the promise of America available to every American in a very personal way.

"It's because that message will have driven right through all of that money. And once you -- once I'm the nominee, if I've beaten them, having been outspent in ways that I just spoke about, taking on the Republican who's carrying George Bush's baggage will be a piece of cake. And I will have plenty of money, and I will have the bully pulpit, and I will have principled, convicted stands, which is what you need to be able to win the presidency."

But note this from a Sept. 28 Washington Post article: "While leading Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2003, [Edwards adviser Joe] Trippi told The Washington Post that this 'campaign believes that any Democratic campaign that opted into the matching-funds system has given up on the general election,' Trippi said. 'There is absolutely no way you can sustain the hits that are going to come from now until August with a $45 million limit.'"