EDWARDS
Jim Mone  /  AP
Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards accepts an ovation as he arrived to speak at a campaign stop on Tuesday at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
By Campaign Reporter
NBC News
updated 10/27/2004 11:43:07 AM ET 2004-10-27T15:43:07

With less than a week left in the presidential race, former trial lawyer Senator John Edwards has changed his stump speech to appeal directly to the jury of undecided voters in the most important case of his career against President Bush.

The purpose of the speech is twofold — to highlight what the Democratic ticket says are the failures of the Bush administration — while defining the leadership qualities of the North Carolina senator and Senator John Kerry.

“It’s the end of the campaign there is a lot of clutter on the airwaves and [we] are trying to cut through in a very clear and direct and focused way, the choices voters will face on Tuesday,” said Peter Scher, Edwards campaign manager.

Creating voter booth scenarios
To spotlight the president’s record, the speech is chock full of virtual scenarios which paint images of voters asking themselves questions about the economy, healthcare, and Iraq just before making their choice for President.

“Just imagine for a minute that you are going to the polls the first thing in the morning when you went, and you just dropped off your child at daycare and you are looking at that ballot and you had to vote quickly because you want to get on with your life, but you also want to be sure that you make the right choice,” said Edwards in Reading, Pa.  

“In that early hour you ask yourself, has my paycheck gone up? But has the cost of childcare gone up? Is the price at the pump going up? And then you ask yourself is George Bush gonna fight for my job the way he is fighting for his own job?”

The framing of these scenarios start with the issue at hand and conclude with an attack on the incumbent.

“You know, but you might also be going to vote at night. You just barely made it to the polls just before they closed. And you are late because you've just been reading an email from your best friend who is serving in Iraq,” he said during a rally in Wilkes-Barre. 

“You're praying for him. You're praying for his wife. You are praying for his kids. You are proud of what he is doing, and you want to vote fast. And you want to honor his service but you want to make the right choice. So in the dark you ask yourself has George Bush made a mess of Iraq?”

Reintroduction of son of a mill worker
The speech also reintroduces both Kerry and Edwards to voters. For example, Edwards talks about how his father learned math from a television set after spending all day working in a mill. Edwards also tries to paint the on-going campaign theme of tough guy Kerry.

“He took bullets for his country when he didn’t have to. He worked as a prosecutor. He spent 20 years in the United States Senate fighting for the middle class. Well I’ve spent the last 4 months fighting with him at his side and I want to tell you. There is nobody in America I’d rather be in a foxhole with than John Kerry,” said Edwards. 

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The speech — while geared towardsundecided voters — has enough attacks to satisfy the Democratic ticket’s enthusiastic base. 

In Tuesday's speeches Edwards attacked the president for his handling of the war citing the new reports of missing explosives from an Iraqi weapons site. He also took a swipe at Vice President Dick Cheney’s calling Iraq a “remarkable success” after over 1,000 American troops have lost their lives and the country in Edwards’ opinion is a “mess.”

Trial trick- appeal to listeners emotions
Overall the speech’s theme “failure vs. hope” is not much different from what we’ve heard from Edwards over the last month.  

But in making his final argument to the jury of undecided voters, Edwards is using what worked for him in courtrooms as a trial lawyer  — an appeal to people’s emotions. In this case those emotions are connected to their pocketbooks and their safety.  

“The truth is they've failed to create jobs. They've failed to fix healthcare and they've failed to make us as safe as we can be and they have put the American dream at risk. We can do better, we know we can do better.”

Tom Llamas is a campaign reporter for MSNBC.

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