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‘Cooter’ sees Dems in high-octane race – Jones, Bonior visit Estherville

By Staff | Dec 7, 2007

ESTHERVILLE–If you didn’t think the Democratic primary was picking up speed, think again.

John Edwards even has the speed shop mechanic from the Dukes of Hazzard on his team.

Ben ‘Cooter’ Jones, along with Edwards’ national campaign manager David Bonior, made a pit stop in Estherville Wednesday as all Democratic hopefuls raced around the state in the final month of campaigning before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Never in history has so much attention been focused on Iowa, the first state in the nation to indicate its straw poll which candidates are favored to represent their party in the general election November 2008.

And, with many states moving their primaries up to Feb. 5, the Iowa caucuses have become a microcosm of what’s going to happen throughout the nation.

And there’s a good reason for it. Iowa has it all.

From Sioux County in the west, a heavily Republican county, to Iowa City, a leading-edge liberal community in the east, Iowa could quite accurately be said to represent a microcosm of the nation.

One major difference between Iowa and other states, though, according to what nearly every candidate of both party has said, is that Iowans say exactly what they think.

And the candidates are listening. Now, more than ever, the Iowa caucuses, along with the New Hampshire primary, could very well help determine which candidates will represent their party November 2008.

Jones and Bonior, both former congressmen, met with the Daily News Wednesday to define the differences between Edwards and the other Democratic candidates and why he’s the best candidate for president.

Bonior served as congressman for the state of Michigan from 1977-2003 and was former majority and minority whip.

Jones served as a congressman for the state of Georgia.

Jones said that as U.S. senator Edwards beat a Republican in a Republican state. “John Edwards is the best candidate for rural America,” Jones said, himself identifying with Edwards’ rags-to-riches story. “I grew up in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing,” Jones said.

Like Jones, Edwards grew up in a mill town. Despite his background, he went on to become one of the top trial lawyers in the country then was elected to the U.S. Senate, Jones said.

“He hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from,” Jones said. “And he is the most electable Democrat because he resonates in the heartland. He can win these red states or so-called purple states. John Edwards runs stronger in the red states than any other candidate.”

Bonior underlined the importance of the Iowa caucus in choosing the next president.

“It’s enormously important,” Bonior said. “It sets the tone and the pace for who the president will be. It couldn’t be made in a better place.”

A big difference between Iowa and other states is that candidates can meet with voters on a one-to-one basis, Bonior said. “The Iowa folks are just very serious and thoughtful,” Bonior said.

When asked which of the other Democratic contenders most resembles Edwards, and which is most distant, both Jones and Bonior agreed that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is closest while former first lady and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is most distant.

“The only problem is we don’t know who he is,” Jones said of Obama.

Clinton, according to Jones, represents “special interest street and Wall Street.”

Bonior said Clinton has accepted political action committee (PAC) and lobbyist money, while Edwards does not. He said Clinton has taken more money from the pharmaceutical and defense industries than any other candidate — Democrat or Republican. He said Clinton has also received more special interest money from Wall Street than Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, or Obama combined. “It’s pretty obvious that’s where her interests lie,” Bonior said.

Jones said Edwards has the broadest appeal among the Democratic contenders. The candidate would do particularly well in the South and in the heartland states, he said.

He also noted an erosion of Clinton supporters.

“People are coming off of Mrs. Clinton,” Jones said. “There is a sense she has peaked and is headed in the wrong direction.” Edwards, on the other hand, is gaining support, Jones said.

Bonior noted that Edwards is also doing better than either Clinton or Obama among second choices named in polls.

“People like him, they trust him, they think he’s qualified to be president,” Bonior said. “He’s strong.”

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com